I can’t believe I am copyediting the last version of my PhD thesis! So many people have worked and played, participated, contributed, critiqued and otherwise walked along with me. Here’s the ‘official abstract’ – more coming soon once the blog interface is fixed.
Co-productions of Technology, Culture and Policy in North America�s Community Wireless Networking Movement
Alison Powell, July 3, 2008
This thesis investigates the visions and realities of community WiFi�s social and political impact from a communications studies perspective, examining how communication technology and social forms are co-produced and providing a communication studies perspective on the transformation of social visions of technology into technological, social, and policy realities. By following the development of local WiFi projects and the emergence of broader policy-oriented mobilizations, it assesses the real outcomes of socially and politically progressive visions about information and communication technologies (ICTs). The visions of advocates and developers suggest that community WiFi projects can inspire greater local democratic engagement, while the realities suggest a more subtle bridging of influence from community WiFi actors into policy development spheres. The thesis describes local WiFi networks in Montreal and Fredericton, NB, and the North American Community Wireless Networking (CWN) movement as it has unfolded between 2004 and 2007, arguing that its democratic visions of technology and their institutional realities have been integral to the politicization of computing technology over the last four decades. Throughout the thesis, WiFi radio technology, a means of networking computers and connecting them to the internet by using unlicensed radio spectrum, acts as an example of how a technology’s material form is co-produced along with its symbolic social and political significance.