14 December 2023

Anthropologist to explore “out of the way” places’ dreams of becoming tech landscapes


What does it mean for “out of the way” places to build technological futures, and how can these futures reproduce or reconfigure social and economic inequalities? This is what Samantha Dawn Breslin will explore thanks to a DFF grant.

St. John's, Newfoundland.
The project focuses on Newfoundland, which has proclaimed itself as a "Silicon Island". Photo: Shawn Harquail, Flickr

Many look to Silicon Valley and dream of the same success in innovation and entrepreneurship. However, some places with this vision have a very different socio-economic history, different cultural values and are geographically more isolated than Silicon Valley.

In addition, Silicon Valley companies are increasingly criticised for creating inequality and other societal ills.

With the project ‘Silicon Island: Building (In)Equitable Tech Futures in Out of the Way Places’, Samantha Dawn Breslin, Assistant Professor in Anthropology, will examine a wide range of factors that play a role in building a thriving tech landscape in remote areas.

The many roles of entrepreneurship

Samantha Dawn Breslin's case study is Newfoundland in Canada, which has proclaimed itself to be a "Silicon Island".

"There are many different people involved in technological innovation and entrepreneurship in Newfoundland, including policy makers, investors, organisations and the entrepreneurs themselves," she explains, elaborating:

"I'm interested in the different roles of technology development and entrepreneurship in the province, how visions of technology and the future of the province interact, and how technological innovation and entrepreneurship can be done in ways that are both valuable and equitable for people in the province."

Although the project is based in Newfoundland, Samantha Dawn Breslin expects it to shed light on similar technological development dreams in other remote areas of the globe.

An island with a special history

Silicon Valley is often seen as the epitome of successful technological innovation and entrepreneurship - a scenario that other places often try to emulate.

"However, Newfoundland is very different from Silicon Valley. The island has a unique social and economic history and is often marginalised compared to the rest of Canada," Samantha Dawn Breslin highlights and continues:

"I'm interested in how technological innovation and entrepreneurship can be developed to work towards better and more equitable possible futures on and for the island. I'm also interested in how people in Newfoundland are already working towards that end and what that looks like."

Samantha Dawn Breslin will use both data science techniques and ethnographic research methods in the project, which is funded with DKK 3.2 million from Independent Research Fund Denmark. The grant is awarded under the auspices of the Inge Lehmann programme, which aims to promote gender equality in research environments.


Samantha Dawn Breslin
Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology
Mail: samantha.breslin@anthro.ku.dk
Phone: +45 35 33 21 29

Simon Knokgaard Halskov
Press and communications officer
Mail: sih@samf.ku.dk 
Phone: +45 93 56 53 29


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