Untangling the Unwired

Adrian Mackenzie
2005 Space and Culture  
Cultural and social studies of technology have regarded infrastructure as less significant than the interfaces, devices, materials, and practices where processes of consumption, representation, attachment, embodiment, identification, and sociality are most visible. Infrastructural elements of new technologies usually remain in the background of analysis. What would it mean to invert the figure-ground relation between technology and "infrastructure"? Via a case study of an increasingly popular,
more » ... veryday contemporary wireless networking technology, Wi-Fi, the author suggests that infrastructures have begun to figure as sites of cultural contestation. Infrastructures work as highly potentialized fields, triggering a multiplicity of interpretations. Using textual and ethnographic materials, the author suggests that rather than being the immobile grounds of technological cultures, different imaginings and practices of connectivity run through the many Wi-Fi projects, enterprises, and visions of the past 2 years. In seeking to understand these different imaginings of connectivity, the author suggests that contemporary infrastructures embody cultural logics at odds with each other. A somewhat banal component of contemporary computing technology, Wi-Fi, or 802.11b wireless local area networking, has begun to "naturalize" itself in buildings, cities, parks, transport systems, and towns throughout Europe, North America, Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Middle East. This technology connects computers to one another or to the Internet using radio links in an unlicensed part of the radio spectrum, 2.4 GHz. It replaces the cable that runs from a computer to a network socket in space and culture vol. 8 no.
doi:10.1177/1206331205277464 fatcat:udwb7nwokffrfclcqr5m5eu4rq