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The connected era, consumer subjectivity, and well being

Rural India and Africa offer good examples of places that have rapidly become connected to each other and the rest of the world thanks to adoption of cheap cell phones and internet access (e.g., Tenhunen, A Village Goes Mobile, 2018). Thanks to leapfrogging technologies, this connectivity and access have even preceded electrification. They have also provided access to television, music and film downloads, pornography, digital currency, and much more.

These changes have also brought about social changes and disrupted traditional authority as the young and educated gain power through their mastery of these technologies. Gender hierarchies and orientations have sometimes been disrupted as well. More love marriages and marriages to partners from more distant places have resulted. Access to jobs, crop price information, transportation, and health care have also improved and affected incomes, education, migration patterns, infant mortality and maternal deaths.

Besides the more obvious effects on health, wealth, and social connectivity, becoming connected also likely affects the way people think about themselves. These technologies are generally seen as empowering, although these benefits are not uniformly distributed within a given locale. Moreover, there are potential costs and dangers, just as there are in the more economically developed world. Problems in areas such as internet addiction, security, and privacy may be compounded by what has been called “leaping luxuries” (Belk 1999), in which “necessities” like food are foregone in order to afford “luxuries” like internet access.

In this track we are interested in case studies, conceptual treatments, and other assessments or demonstrations of the effects of becoming connected on subjectivities and feelings of well-being. Both qualitative and quantitative approaches are welcome. While macro treatments are invited, we are especially interested in micro treatments in developing economies and cultures.

Queries related to this track may be addressed to Professor Russell Belk: rbelk@schulich.yorku.ca