Institutt for sosialantropologi

The 'Yam' that dropped; An ethnographic study of the digital life of urban, Ghanaian youth


Master's thesis submitted at Department of Social Anthropology, spring 2018.

By: Maria Bakke Ulvesæter
Supervisor: Professor Bjørn Enge Bertelsen

Smartphones are becoming ever more popular, and common, in Ghana, especially among urban youth. Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the spring of 2015, this thesis analyses the digital life of young adults in Ghana. The first three chapters deal mainly with the context of Ghana and Accra; They introduce both the physical and the digital field sites, and the informants are introduced to the reader. They also outline the economic situation of young Ghanaians, and deal with methodological challenges. The next three chapters deal with three different social media; Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. These are all examined mainly through case studies. We will explore how one performs, exhibits, and curates the self on social media. Additionally, social networking sites are digital spaces where one forms connections to others, and where one can establish a belongingness to particular groups. In this thesis this will be examined through topics ranging from football to power cuts.

Information and communication technology (ICT) research is often carried out with the implicit assumption that Europe and North America are the norm, and if other places are mentioned at all, it is often assumed that they will follow what happens in ‘the West’. This thesis is an attempt to rather centre Africa in ICT research. By focusing on topics such as normativity and appropriation, and by employing a broad range of ethnography, my hope is that the reader will gain a profound understanding of urban life in Ghana, and how ICTs are significant in young adult’ lives.