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Thursday, October 11 • 2:00pm - 3:30pm
Infrastructures: Theory and Comparative Historical Materialities

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THE INTERNET AS A TRANSNATIONAL PROJECT: CONNECTING CENTRAL AMERICA THROUGH COMPUTER NETWORKS (1990-1996)
Ignacio Siles
This paper argues that transnational flows of knowledge, data, and technologies are not only an actual feature of the Internet, but rather a constitutive characteristic of its historical development. To make this case, it discusses how six countries in Central America--Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panamá--connected to and through computer networks and technologies such as UUCP, BITNET, and the Internet in the first half of the 1990s. Drawing on archival research and 75 interviews with protagonists of networking initiatives, this article argues that the establishment of these projects in Central America required forging a transnational network of collaborations, enabled by international organizations with presence in countries of the region.

By discussing these cases, this paper makes a twofold contribution. Empirically, it describes the early development of the Internet in an understudied region. Historical research has been devoted primarily to the most connected countries. As a result, we know little of how the Internet has been historically imagined, defined, and negotiated in less connected regions, such as Central America. Therefore, our understanding of the early development of computer networks in the global South is limited. Conceptually, this paper makes visible the importance of transnational processes in the development of the Internet. Scholars have studied the history of the Internet largely through national lenses.

This study reveals how the Internet was implemented in a part of the world largely absent in academic literature. It broadens our understanding of the early development of computer networks in the global South.

MASS MEDIA AND THE LEGITIMATION OF INTERNET CONTROL IN RUSSIA: THE CASE OF TELEGRAM
Mariëlle Wijermars
In today's hyperconnected world, states are confronted with the global challenge of responding to potentially disruptive online communications, such as terrorist propaganda and fake news. Formulating effective internet regulation to address these threats carries the risk of infringing upon media freedom and constitutional rights. In the case of Russia, ostensibly sound legitimations have been instrumentalised to bring about a dramatic decline in internet freedom.

Controlling public opinion may well be decisive for Russia's "success" in expanding its system of internet controls without arousing popular resistance. Scholarship thus far, however, has neglected to critically examine how the Russian government legitimates and cultivates popular support for restricting online freedom of speech. This paper aims to address this crucial aspect of internet censorship by studying how restrictions of internet freedom, freedom of expression and the right to information and privacy are framed in political and media discourses.

The paper presents a case study examining the legitimation of user data storage, surveillance and restriction of online anonymity, on the example of messaging application Telegram. To justify legal measures in these domains, policymakers have framed their proposals as anti-terrorist, or claimed the need to protect personal data from foreign states. Typically, anonymity and privacy are recast as secrecy indicating criminal (e.g., drug dealers) or morally derogatory intent (e.g., paedophilia). The paper analyses how frames are produced by policymakers; how they are translated and disseminated in state and (semi-)independent media; and how they resonate in online debates and social media.

HAROLD INNIS, ECONOMIC HISTORY, AND INTERNET INFRASTRUCTURE
Liam Cole Young
This paper argues for the relevance and utility for contemporary internet researchers of Harold Adams Innis’s early-career economic histories of Canada. While Innis’s late works on the history of communication receive the bulk of scholarly attention, his research and writing from the 1920s and 30s on the fur trade, placer mining, and cod fisheries exhibit an infrastructural approach to understanding processes of communication, transportation, and logistics that resonates strongly with the recent ‘material’ turn across the humanities. These early works developed methods for tracing actants, relations, and processes that comprised the global networks of circulation and exchange upon which North American settlement and colonization arose. They therefore offer essential methodological and conceptual tools for understanding digital networks and infrastructure in similar terms. Innis’s early work furthermore helps ground internet research and analysis in longer historical trajectories. I develop the argument in two sections. The first introduces Innis in the context of the Canadian tradition. The second uses his approach to understand relations between energy extraction and internet infrastructure.

INSCRIBING SOCIAL JUSTICE IN INTERNET INFRASTRUCTURES : SOCIOTECHNICAL PROPOSALS FROM CIVIL SOCIETY IN THE CONTEXT OF INTERNET GOVERNANCE
Stephane Couture
This communication will present the framework and preliminary results of a research project aiming at documenting technological proposals emanating from a social justice perspective, and presented in the context of Internet Governance Forums and spaces. Internet Governance (IG) refers broadly to the ways in which the use and evolution of Internet infrastructures is or should be shaped and regulated. With the advent of the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) in 2003 and 2005, Internet governance has been the object of the annual Internet Governance Forum organized under the umbrella of the United Nations, as well as multiple regional and local “Internet Forums”. Much empirical research has was done to study the “multistakeholder” arrangements within Internet Governance deliberations and more specifically, the contribution of civil society. This research rather looks at the technological and infrastructural proposals made in these forums, for instance related to protocols, standards and hardware networks, and that are explicitly articulated with values such as social justice and human rights. The first phase of the research - which will be the subject of this communication – has involved participatory observation in two consecutive Internet Governance Forums. Some of these technological proposals will be presented and we will analyze how they are articulated with discourses of social justice.



Thursday October 11, 2018 2:00pm - 3:30pm
Sheraton - Salon 5

Attendees (30)