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Burrell tells a story of a burgeoning online friendship between Fauzia, a young Ghanaian woman, and an Egyptian man.While chatting online, Fauzia mentioned “ok, my phone is giving me problems and I will be very grateful if you could send me money to get a better phone or if you could send me a new phone.” After repeating the request, “I didn’t see him online again,” said Fauzia.More widespread Internet access didn’t become available until the early 2000s.” As a result, subcultures of the Internet and ‘netiquette’ — rules and expectations about how to relate to people online — developed in the US in the 1990s and were cemented before most Ghanaians ever encountered the Internet.

“The Internet provided opportunities for making faraway places very tangible and personal,” said Burrell.“This thrill was evident in the most popular of Internet activities among youth — collecting pen pals.” Burrell observed young Ghanaians pursuing a variety of relationships with foreigners online, including same-aged platonic friendships, romantic relationships, older adults to appeal to for advice, patrons offering financial support, and even business partnerships.Entire Internet cafés had been overtaken by scammers, and their profits were clearly evident in the young men’s conspicuous consumption of new cars, jewelry, and trendy upscale clothes.There was also much more public visibility for the scamming subculture and considerable alarm in Ghanaian society over the activity.For the youth of the West African nation of Ghana, a country on the margins of the global economy, the growth of the Internet in the 1990s was full of promise — the promise of sharing in the prosperity of the information age, and of forging meaningful connections with the rest of the world, politically, economically, and socially.

But when Internet connectivity finally arrived after the turn of the 21st century, many of these optimistic youth struggled to form connections with the foreigners they encountered online.

Typically, the young male Ghanaians would assume a fictional female persona online, attempting to lure a foreign boyfriend.

Once the “boyfriend” was properly seduced, the scammer would invent a scenario.

New research by School of Information professor Jenna Burrell looks under the surface of Internet culture in Ghana, exploring why many of Ghana’s hopes went unrealized and how Ghanaians have responded.

Burrell’s book , based on seven years of ethnographic research in Ghana, is being released this week.

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