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[liberationtech] 2nd CfP 4th GCEG Oxford: Digital Growth Entrepreneurship at the Margins (abstracts by April 15)

Nicolas Friederici nfriederici at
Mon Mar 30 03:57:18 PDT 2015

****Apologies for cross posting****
Session: Growth Entrepreneurship at the Margins: Digital Production and
Innovation in Low-Income Contexts

2nd Call for Papers: 4th Global Conference on Economic Geography (GCEG),
Oxford August 19-23, 2015

*Session Organisers: Nicolas Friederici, Mark Graham (Oxford Internet

an abridged version*

The geography of the globalized digital economy is “double-edged”: creative
and coordinating functions of production are shaped by centripetal forces
and are highly clustered (usually in Silicon Valley or urban centers in
developed countries), while other value creation and distribution processes
benefit from dispersion economies and can stretch across the globe (Malecki
and Moriset 2007). This has led to vastly divergent geographies of digital
consumption and production: most of the content and applications that are
used in developing countries are actually produced in the Global North
(Graham 2014).

Recently, however, low-income contexts have seen significant upgrades in
Internet connectivity that has been paralleled by economic growth and a
rising middle class. This has revived efforts to create local digital
innovation and production centers, even in places with a weak incumbent
digital economy.

While planning interventions such as technopoles, ICT incubators, and
science parks have a history of several decades and are still favored in
some policy circles, what is new is an increasing dominance of grassroots,
entrepreneur-led, and urban approaches to local development. Success
stories of fast-growing clusters, such as in Israel and Taiwan, have
inspired a narrative that sees small communities of motivated, educated,
and experienced entrepreneurs as drivers of regional and even national
growth, while policy is relegated to a supporting and enabling function
(Saxenian 2006; Feldman, Francis, and Bercovitz 2005).

This is not so different from the trajectory that innovation discourse has
taken in countries and regions in the Global North. Technocratic and
policy-oriented notions in national and regional development (such as
knowledge spillovers, innovation systems, and clusters) dominated the 1990s
and 2000s. But recently, academia and practice have instead become more
interested in the individual- and local-level underpinnings of innovation.
Concepts such as “buzz” (Storper and Venables 2004), the creative class
(Florida 2005), entrepreneurial ecosystems (Pitelis 2012), startup
communities (Feld 2012), or innovation districts (Katz and Bradley 2013)
have gained in popularity far beyond scholarship, and it is safe to say
that the “in” topics for geographical perspectives on innovation have
become entrepreneurship and the city.

This session seeks to clarify where this leaves our understanding of where,
why, and how digital innovation happens at Global Margins. Can we translate
theories and concepts developed in the context of buzzing urban centers in
North America and Europe to places like Harare and Kathmandu? Where do
driven entrepreneurs come from if there is no legacy of entrepreneurship?
What kinds of innovations and businesses can we expect to succeed? Does the
potential of local digital production and innovation lie in job creation
and economic growth through startups, or rather in small-scale, targeted
innovations that are not commercially viable but fulfill an unmet user
need? What is the role that development organizations play in this mix?
Will we continue to see a highly uneven global digital innovation
landscape, or rather a more evenly distributed one, with specialized,
complementary production centers in different places?

We invite both theoretical and empirical contributions, ideally bridging
multiple disciplines such as economic geography, innovation management, and
development studies. Our focus is not squarely on developing or low-income
countries, but generally on ‘Global Margins,’ that is, the people, places,
and processes that have not been able to occupy central positions in
transnational networks of digital production and value creation.
Submissions discussing the African context are particularly encouraged.

Potential themes include but are not limited to the following:

-          Comparative theories and concepts for geographies of digital
entrepreneurship and innovation at Global Margins, capturing differences
between cities, regions, and nations

-          Legacies, path dependencies, and lock-in effects for digital
innovation and entrepreneurship

-          Differences in dispersion and agglomeration effects for distinct
digital business models, innovation stages, specializations, etc.

-          Evolution of entrepreneurial capacity and competence

-          Dynamics of serial entrepreneurship, spin-offs, and role models

-          Ecosystem perspectives; in particular tackling divisions of
roles between investors, universities, innovation hubs, government
agencies, etc.; and dynamic approaches studying effect chains and the
chronology of ecosystems

-          The effects of co-location and urban geography on knowledge
exchange; and on sources, networks, directions of knowledge spillovers

-          The role of the incumbent educational system and knowledge base

-          The role of returning diaspora

-          The role of entrepreneurial and labor mobility, and
cross-cultural and transnational learning

-          The roles of innovation interventions and infrastructure, such
as broadband, tech innovation hubs, incubators, accelerators, makerspaces,
co-working spaces

-          Interplay of different sectors with digital economies, and the
existence/role of a creative class

-          Entrepreneurship culture and social desirability/acceptance
within established socio-cultural norms

-          Rural-urban divides in digital entrepreneurship and innovation

-          Discourses of entrepreneurship, innovation, and “ecosystems” and
the policies and practices that they drive

-          The promised versus practiced effects of local digital
production in global margins

-          The types of exclusionary or inclusive development brought into
being through digital innovation

-          Reflections on the connections or discontinuities between
entrepreneurship and innovation discourses and theories produced in
economic centers and practices in economic margins

Please send your abstracts (no longer than 200 words) to Nicolas Friederici
(nicolas.friederici at and Mark Graham (mark.graham at
by April 15, 2015.

Feld, B. 2012. Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
in Your City.

Feldman, Maryann, Johanna L. Francis, and Janet Bercovitz. 2005. “Creating
a Cluster While Building a Firm: Entrepreneurs and the Formation of
Industrial Clusters.” Regional Studies 39 (1): 129–41.

Florida, Richard L. 2005. Cities and the Creative Class. New York:

Graham, Mark. 2014. “Inequitable Distributions in Internet Geographies: The
Global South Is Gaining Access, but Lags in Local Content.” Innovations:
Technology, Governance, Globalization 9 (3-4): 3–19.

Katz, Bruce, and Jennifer Bradley. 2013. The Metropolitan Revolution How
Cities and Metros Are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy.
Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press.

Malecki, Edward J, and Bruno Moriset. 2007. “The Paradox of a
‘Double-Edged’ Geography: Local Ecosystems of the Digital Economy.” In The
Digital Economy: Business Organization, Production Processes and Regional
Developments, 174–98. New York, NY: Routledge.

Pitelis, C. 2012. “Clusters, Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Co-Creation, and
Appropriability: A Conceptual Framework.” Industrial and Corporate Change
21 (6): 1359–88.

Saxenian, AnnaLee. 2006. The New Argonauts: Regional Advantage in a Global
Economy. Cambridge, Mass. ; London: Harvard University Press.

Storper, M., and A. J. Venables. 2004. “Buzz: Face-to-Face Contact and the
Urban Economy.” Journal of Economic Geography 4 (4): 351–70.

Nicolas Friederici
Oxford Internet Institute

*nicolas.friederici at <nicolas.friederici at>*
@friedema, Skype: Nicolatsch
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