Parks and Starosielski 2015

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Parks, Lisa and Nicole Starrosielski, eds. Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrastructures. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2015.


“Our current mediascapes would not exist without our current media infrastructures. As a suggestive concept, then, signal traffic demarcates a critical shift away from the analysis fo screened content alone and toward an understanding of how content moves through the world and how this movement affects content’s form.” (1)

“Built environments have been transformed into wireless foot prints. Media and communication researchers have begun to explore the sociocultural and economic relations of mobile telephony, but few have considered the complex materialities of its infrastructure.” (3)

“In this book we conceptualize sites such as data centers, mobile-telephone towers, and undersea cables as media infrastructures—situated sociotechni- cal systems that are designed and configured to support the distribution of audiovisual signal traffic.” (4)

“Media infrastructures are material forms as well as discursive constructions. They are owned by public entities and private companies and are the products of design schemes, regulatory policies, collective imaginar- ies, and repetitive use. Interwoven within political-economic agendas, media infrastructures have historically been used in efforts to claim and reorganize territories and temporal relations.8 Their material dependence on lands, raw materials, and energy imbricates them within issues of finance, urban plan- ning, and natural-resource development.” (5)

Adopting an “infrastructural disposition”: foregrounds “processes of distribution”; “brings into relief the unique materialities of media distribution”; “compels critical assessment of the relation between technological literacies and public involvement in infrastructure development, regulation, and use”

“Approaching infrastructure across different scales involves shifting away from thinking about infrastructures solely as centrally organized, large-scale technical systems and recognizing them as part of multivalent sociotechnical relations.” (8)