Monday, October 16, 2017
Tim Weiss, Fellow, Center for Work, Technology & Organization (WTO), Stanford
Globalization in Action: Templates, Tensions and Strategies of Action in Kenyan Technology Entrepreneurship
The proliferation of seemingly universal templates for economic action is a cultural dimension of economic globalization. One example of such a template is technology entrepreneurship, which is increasingly presented as a recipe for economic development and national competitiveness. But what does it mean to perform technology entrepreneurship? The paper develops a micro-phenomenological answer to this question. The case of the nascent information and communications technology (ICT) sector in Nairobi, Kenya, shows how participants in the sector have constructed contrasting templates of entrepreneurship that are coded as alternatively “local” and “global.” We use ethnographic and semiotic methods to understand the content of these templates and the strategies of action that participants use to manage tensions between the template prescriptions. Each strategy gives rise to unintended consequences that prevent the full resolution of the tensions and thus prompt subsequent action. As a result we develop a dynamic process model of local changes in response to globalization that captures the ongoing and generative dimension of diffusion and translation processes.