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Infrastructural Encounters: Ethnographic perspectives on telecommunication in the Arctic – Mette Simonsen Abildgaard, Department of Culture and Learning, Aalborg University Copenhagen


May 8 @ 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm

Infrastructural Encounters: Ethnographic perspectives on telecommunication in the Arctic

How do digital infrastructures shape the experiences of those positioned as living ‘on the margins’? This has been the central question guiding my research over the past five years, which has focused on sea-cables, wi-fi networks, mobile plans, satellites, and other infrastructures of telecommunication in Greenland. Another big question has been: How can we study these systems, which are both pervasive and deeply personal, using ethnographic methods?

In this talk, I will present some of my methodological and theoretical approaches in addressing these questions. Specifically, I’ll discuss the concept ‘infrastructural encounters’, which aims to capture those sites and moments where the everyday is made faster or is slowed down through infrastructure. Additionally, I’ll explore a method of phenomenologically ‘sensing’ situated, mundane data (as the kilobytes, megabytes, petabytes, and zettabytes circulating in digital infrastructures) during fieldwork.

Mette Simonsen AbildgaardMette Simonsen Abildgaard is associate professor of Arctic Technology Studies at Aalborg University, where she is part of the TANTlab (Techno-Anthropological Laboratory) research group and co-coordinator of the social science and humanities research platform Arctic Lab. Her current research focuses on the way telecommunication infrastructures intersect with everyday life in Arctic and Nordic countries. Her work takes place between science and technology studies, anthropology, and history of technology. Recent publications focus on marginality as produced and sustained in and with satellite telecommunication infrastructures in Qaanaaq, North Greenland (The Satellite at the End of the World, 2023), and the way ice and snow has shaped communication infrastructures in the Arctic (The Question of Icebergs, 2022).

Co-sponsored by the Department of Film and Media Studies and the Global Media Technologies & Cultures Lab.


May 8
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm
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