Accessing Egypt: making myths and producing web sites in cyber-Cairo
Peterson, M. A.
Date of Issue2004
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
From an anthropological viewpoint, “accessibility” is not so much a technological and design project as it is a cultural construction, a cognitive schema through which graphic designers and technologists imagine audiences and create appropriate graphic designs that will be “accessible” to that audience. The ethnographer's task is the specification of key actors, institutions and discourses active in the making and remaking of accessibility in a given context. In this article, we examine how Egyptian Web producers at the turn of millennium (1999–2001) sought to design Web portals that would allow the “typical” Egyptian to easily access the World Wide Web. We argue, first, that Egyptian Web producers are deeply influenced by national and international discourses that frame IT as a national mission for socioeconomic development. Second, we found that in the absence of clear definitions of the Web audience, Web producers imagined a “typical” Egyptian that contradicted their own experiences of users of the Web. Finally, we found that Egyptian Web producers largely borrowed pre-existing models, using design elements to “inflect” their sites with an Egyptian motif. However, the conceptual models of access and related design strategies created by Egyptian Web producers were out of touch with Egyptian social realities, contributing to a collapse of most Web portal projects.
New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia
© 2004 Taylor & Francis