Digital connections: Coffee, agency, and unequal platforms

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

3 Scopus citations


In 2015, the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) convened its fourth biennial international conference at the Corferias Convention Center in downtown Bogotá, Colombia. The multi-day event was timed to coincide with the ExpoEspecialies Café de Colombia, Colombia’s annual specialty coffee convention. The IWCA conference featured coffee and international development industry speakers from around the world and was primarily conducted in English with simultaneous Spanish translation available via headset. In order to fill the cavernous event hall with bodies, the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation bussed in a large contingent of female coffee farmers from the Huila, Tolima, and Cauca regions. These women, very few of whom spoke English, were dressed in matching red vests and sat clustered together in the centre of the auditorium, chatting to one another and speaking on their cell phones throughout the day’s presentations. On the afternoon of the second day, Ric Rhinehart, the Executive Director of the Specialty Coffee Association of America, presented detailed information about the evolving US coffee market. For the first time in two days the Colombian producers in the audience devoted their full attention to a speaker when Rhinehart began to discuss the possibilities technology holds for forging connections between producers and consumers. He noted that US consumers, especially those purchasing certified coffees (Fair Trade, organic, etc.), have long been interested in the lives of their producer correlates. Yet, he explained, ‘Producers also have the right to know where their coffee is going, not just the other way around.’ Rhinehart suggested that Skype is a tool producers could use to talk to coffee consumers in real time: ‘The Internet will shrink the world to the point where consumers 10,000 miles away are truly as close as your neighbours.’ The producers in the audience began clapping and cheering enthusiastically, clearly excited by the thought that they could translate digital connections with consumers into increased sales in a competitive marketplace.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDigital Food Activism
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781351614573
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 selection and editorial matter, Tanja Schneider, Karin Eli, Catherine Dolan and Stanley Ulijaszek. All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • General Social Sciences


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