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Infrastructure, Platform, Locality: A response to Motta and Georgiou


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These are the slides used for my response to Wallis Motta and Myria Georgiou’s ‘Deep mapping communication infrastructure in super diverse London’ which has won the 2016 IAMCR Urban Communication Grant.

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Infrastructure, Platform, Locality: A response to Motta and Georgiou

  1. 1. Infrastructure, Platform, Locality A response to Motta and Georgiou Scott Rodgers @rodgers_scott
  2. 2. Infrastructure
  3. 3. The ethnography of infrastructure “…is in a way a call to study boring things. Many aspects of infrastructure are singularly unexciting. They appear as lists of numbers and technical specifications, or as hidden mechanisms subtending those processes more familiar to social scientists.” (Star, 1999, p. 377) “The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.” (Weiser, 1991, p. 94) “Infrastructures[’] … peculiar ontology lies in the facts that they are things and also the relation between things … What distinguishes infrastructures from technologies is that they are objects that create the grounds on which other objects operate” (Larkin, 2013. p. 329)
  4. 4. Two readings of infrastructure 1. Sociopolitical • Infrastructures as “crystallizations of institutional relations” • Concerned with questions of access and control 2. Experiential • Infrastructures as shaping “individual actions and experience” • Concerned with everyday practical dependencies on infrastructure, and how infrastructures in turn frame our everyday existence and its associated meanings (Dourish and Bell, 2011, pp. 96-98)
  5. 5. Theorizing media phenomenologically • Phenomenological turns and returns • The practice turn in media theory • Non-media-centric media studies • The return of technical media • Environmental views of media (Markham and Rodgers, 2017, pp. 7-8)
  6. 6. Infrastructure, Platform, Locality
  7. 7. Approach: Between Big Data and Small Data ‘Big Data’ Analytics: • Twitter and Facebook • Social network analysis • Natural Language processing: • Topic modelling • Sentiment analysis • Image visualisation (ImagePlot) ‘Small Data’ Qualitative Analysis: • Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Commonplace, blogs, local media • Social media / online observation • In-depth interviews • Computer-assisted coding (NVivo)
  8. 8. Infrastructure, Platform, Locality
  9. 9. The production of media locality • Localities are produced – they do not exist a priori (Appadurai, 1995) • This is not to deny that named localities retain an obdurate reality – they are rigid designators (Kripke, 1980) • But ‘local’ media should not be fixed to or conflated with such named local entities • Instead: local is a complex epistemological apparatus for specific fields of media production/creation – fields which are themselves necessarily translocal