Connecting in real space: How people share knowledge and technologies in cybercafés

Abstract

We examine how the internet brings people together not virtually over digital networks but physically while co-located in public spaces. In particular we are interested in how people in cybercafés share and collaborate with others who are physically present in the facility at the same time. We hypothesize that both explicit and implicit collaboration occurs among co-present internet users – at times intentional and purposeful while in other cases accidental, fleeting or voyeuristic. Public shared internet facilities are particularly important in low-come settings such as found in Africa. To examine this hypothesis in an African context we conducted a survey of
75 computer users at a major cybercafé, Busy Internet, in Accra, Ghana. We found that more
than one-third of respondents reported some significant form of collaboration and computer
sharing with friends, family members, business associates, and even strangers while in the café.
Of those respondents reporting computer sharing one-half reported gaining knowledge and
learning from the other user as their primary reason for sharing while only a small minority sited
purely economic reasons for sharing. Those respondents who shared computers typically came to
the cybercafé with more friends or associates, and generally had a better view towards
collaborative group work and broader forms of interaction while in the café compared to the nonsharing respondents.

Recommended Citation

Best, M. L. (2010). Connecting in real space: How people share knowledge and technologies in cybercafés. Presented at the 19th AMIC Annual Conference, Singapore.