I thought this was really interesting, particularly the focus on HCI for this strategy:

*HCI/UX researchers at Google’s Next Billion Users teamThe Google Next
Billion Users team is looking for HCI interns, post-docs, and
researchers-on-contract to work on exploratory research and product
initiatives. The team builds global products from the ground-up with new
Internet users, such as Google Station <https://station.google.com/> and
Tez <https://tez.google.com/>. You will work with an interdisciplinary team
of researchers and designers that explores new aspects of computing with
communities around the world. Roles are based in several countries. Some
travel within the country is required.   If you are excited about
understanding complex spaces, taking research insights to reality, and
working on technology products, fill out this form
to indicate your interest.Qualifications: – Passion for research in
non-western regions- Strong understanding of strengths and shortcomings of
different research methods, including when and how to apply them during
each product phase.- Mastery and rigor of research craft and ability to
think outside the box with research methods.- Experience with emerging
markets (worked in, extensively travelled, studied in depth, or originating
from) and ability to work with diverse communities in emerging markets.-
Experience conducting human-centered research for digital technology or
products.- Follow a collaborative work process.- Master’s degree/Ph.D. in
Human-computer Interaction, anthropology, information science, or
equivalent on-the-job experience, or related fields. Exceptional Bachelor’s
degree holders will be considered. – [Preferred] Track record of publishing
in academic and/or industry arenas, in top-tier conferences and journals.-
[Preferred] Experience in social justice or working with underrepresented

In his fascinating book Spam: a Shadow History of the Internet, Finn Brunton offers an example on pg 23-24 of how the early ARPANET was local in a way that is no longer the case.

in September 1973, computer scientist Leonard Kleinrock used his ARPANET connection in Los Angeles to get back the electric razor he’d left at a conference in Brighton. He knew his friend Larry Roberts would probably be online (logged in at a terminal in Brighton to a mainframe in Cambridge) and could retrieve it and hand it off to someone going to Los Angeles. He reached across the transcontinental, trans-Atlantic network as though leaning over a fence, shouting across the street.

I was struck by the thought that I retrieved a laptop charger in precisely the same way via Twitter. Is this platform making the Internet local again? By which I mean that network activity often forms largely around professional networks with a substantial degree of prior face-to-face interaction and the facilitation of further face-to-face interaction through digitally mediated contact?

What do we do online? This is an issue I’ve pondered in a variety of guises but I’ve been thinking about it today as a result of running a fun (though badly attended) workshop about ‘demystifying social media’. As someone who runs social media workshops in universities, I’ve become ever more convinced that many of the confusions which surround digital activity stems from a basic ontological misunderstanding of what online activity is. It’s too frequently construed as something distinct from the ‘real’ world.

The reasons for this distinction, which has pithily been named digital dualism, are a fascinating question in their own right.In part I think it stems from the phenomenology of the internet. Until the recent proliferation of mobile devices, it was necessary to sit down at a computer and stare at a screen to use the internet. This helps creates a sense of the internet as a ‘virtual’ space which is in some way disembodied. As someone who has had unpleasant back and neck problems from my posture when using a computer in the past, it’s always been obvious to me that using the internet is not at all disembodied. Though the obviousness of this has become utterly glaring, to the extent that I can’t quite take those who disagree seriously, since I started using an iPad and iPhone. Similarly the cyberpunk romanticisation of the ‘virtual’ plays a cultural role in propping up this ontological assumption.

If people see the internet as a distinct ‘world’ disconnected from the ‘real world’ then it becomes normatively and practically confusing. The tacit and explicit guides to action, the criteria we use to judge experiences, don’t seem to apply. When I run workshops I try to ‘reembody’ digital activity, encouraging people to incorporate digital tools into their wider lives. The concerns, projects and plans which unproblematically apply to every other sphere of life also apply to digital activity. Digital tools are only contingently different to other tools. If we treat them as something other, as mysteriously distinct from the stuff of day-to-day life, our practical engagement with them is unavoidably inhibited. It’s necessary to understand the tools but, in a way, this is secondary. It’s much more important to understand how we might use these tools as part of the wider projects and practices which stem from our lives beyond them.

The sheer newness of the digital tools we are presented with impedes the common sense sociological realism which guides us in other aspects of our life. Too often we fail to see (though we may retrospectively reflect in an intellectual manner) that the people we encounter ‘online’ are, well, people. Who are using tools to communicate for a whole range of reasons. If we artificially delineate ‘the digital’ as a distinct sphere of human activity we deny ourselves the possibility of properly understanding what people do online. Likewise we preclude the possibility of participating in the ‘online world’ with the same degree of practical poise with which we engage with much, though not all, of our ‘real lives’.

The aforementioned transformations in the socio-cultural and the cultural system are generalisable beyond the particular experiences of asexual individuals. Some have suggested that the heterogeneity which manifests itself through the Internet precludes generalisation. For instance Gauntlett and Horsley (2004: 28) argue that the diversity of material available online means that it is “not possible to say that online communication is one thing and one thing only” and thus argue that “research about the Internet as a social, psychological and linguistic communication site is most fruitful when it is based on the specific case at hand”. While their argument is undoubtedly correct as a denunciation of abstract theorising about the ‘Internet’, it has no bearing on theorising about the cultural dynamics of the Internet when this is grounded in empirical case studies. While the specific consequences of the changes I am detailing may manifest themselves in the asexual community only, it is my contention that the changes themselves are not limited in this way and that furthermore they hold salience for all Internet users given the nature of human cultural agency.

The Internet facilitates an unprecedented degree of access to the cultural system far above and beyond that which would have been accessible to even the most committed of searchers in the pre-Internet age. Whereas once access to the cultural system was heavily mediated by the socio-cultural context, the Internet has both democratized cultural production and democratized access to the increasingly diverse cultural system which results. It is easier than ever for individuals and groups to articulate ideas within the social arena. Until relatively recently the effective social dissemination of ideas depended, inter alia, upon writing letters to the editor, producing articles for magazines or getting books published. In contrast now every individual potentially has access to a whole range of outlets for the production and dissemination of ideas: contributing to an online discussion forum, setting up a website, writing on a blog, producing you tube videos, setting up groups on social networking services, editing Wikipedia articles etc (Beer and Burrows 2007). The proliferation of these technologies (perhaps able to be subsumed under the notion of the ‘digitization of culture’) is “helping to challenge – even, in some instances, break down – the difference between production and consumption” (Taylor 2001: 16). The sphere of cultural production was traditionally separated from the sphere of cultural consumption by the usually prohibitive barriers to entry which inhered in the former but not in the latter, as the political economy of culture rested on widespread consumer access to a range of mainstream cultural products produced by an increasingly small number of major international corporations (Held et al 1999: 350).

Certainly this universal accessibility only obtains in principle, as the consistent availability of Internet access and the practical knowledge necessary for this sort of online activity are still dependent upon the social distribution of resources. However the available evidence suggests that an increasing portion of the population, albeit it concentrated among younger Internet users, is involved in the production of online content and that an even greater number are consuming this sort of ‘do it yourself’ online content. As long ago as 2005 research has suggested that a small majority of teenage Internet users have done one or more of the following: “creating activities: create a blog; create a personal webpage; create a webpage for school, a friend, or an organization; share original content they created themselves online; or remix content found online into a new creation.” (Lenhardt and Madden, 2005) While structural obstacles still prevent the full realisation of this democratisation of cultural production, it seems to be the case that these are diminishing with time and that, furthermore, they are less onerous than inherent in ‘old media’ cultural production. Similarly access to the increasingly diverse stock of ideas is less contingent upon the individual’s local context than ever before.

These technologies have proved to be the necessary condition for the formation of an asexual community, as their creative use enabled the rapid formation of a self-conscious community. Consider that Bogaert (2004) performed a secondary analysis of a dataset about sexual behaviour in order to offer an estimate of the prevalence of asexuality within the wider population. Given that the pre-existing data came from a study in 1994 this suggests that there were people who could be classified as asexual at least 7 years before any organized asexual community began to emerge. Furthermore it seems intuitively plausible that there were individuals who lacked sexual desire prior to this time. When considered in terms of this historical context, it becomes clear quite how rapidly increasingly sophisticated ideas about asexuality were able to be communally articulated and disseminated, in spite of their apparent absence before the turn of the century.

The growth of the Internet also means that most individual are no longer limited to their local socio-cultural context. Scherrer (2010a) suggests a significant degree of geographical dispersal amongst the asexual community. As earlier discussed, the existing literature renders it plausible that there were many who did not experience sexual desire (i.e. who had the experience of being asexual without possessing such a concept through which to interpret that experience) significantly prior to the formation of the asexual community.  The concepts, labels and identities which have emerged through online discussion within the asexual community have been integral to the shaping of asexual experience (Chasin 2009, Scherrer 2010a, Scherrer 2010b). Whereas asexual individuals were previously reliant on those within their local socio-cultural context when seeking to discuss or deliberate about their experience, the formation of the Internet liberated them from that geo-local constraint and thus massively expanded their pool of potential interlocutors: in allowing those with shared experience to conduct creative dialogues over time the Internet facilitated the emergence of an asexual culture and, with this, the cultural resources which enabled the production of distinctly asexual selves. As Chasin (2009: 12) observes “within the asexual community there is a clear and creative generation of new words and discourses, which asexual people use to explain and shape their experiences, relationships and identities”.

The asexual community is a striking example of the Internet facilitating the articulation and affirmation of a personal difference (the absence of sexual attraction) which was previously silenced and largely invisible. Through the dissemination of concepts within the cultural system (i.e. articulating coherent understandings of asexuality which are available online and increasingly through the mass media and academic research) and establishment of a cultural presence online, asexual identity becomes a socio-culturally available option for an increasing number of people who previously might have simply experienced themselves as different from their peer group and assumed this difference was a consequence of pathology. While the particular content of this process may be specific to asexual individuals, it is facilitated by processes which are not and furthermore it is only through an appreciation of the specificity of the former that we can begin to develop empirically adequate and theoretically rigorous accounts of the latter. In other words we can only understand ‘identity technologies’ through in depth analysis of the actual identities which ensue from them