Shannon Mattern: Data fantasies and operational facts: 5G’s infrastructural epistemologies

Date: 31 May 2019, 6pm, Keynes Library

Free, but booking is advised. Book here.

The “5G Revolution” promises to deliver lightning-speed connections, immersive entertainment, seamlessly connected sentient things and city systems, high-precision geolocation, and “last mile” coverage for those who’ve historically been marginalized. Yet the realization of such a datafied dreamworld, where everyone and everything is networked, depends upon cables and trenches, processors and poles. And those material facts are filtered through spatial politics and paranoias at various scales: personal, local, national, and global.

In this talk I’ll discuss how 5G’s infrastructural artifacts, as they’re implanted around the world, are called upon to serve multiple functions: as promissory notes of immanent progress; as political tools for private development and deregulation, for nationalization or global domination; and, for some skeptics, as harbingers of invasion – of our communities, homes, and bodies. 

Shannon Mattern is a Professor of Anthropology at The New School for Social Research. She is the author of The New Downtown Library: Designing with Communities, Deep Mapping the Media City, and Code and Clay, Data and Dirt: Five Thousand Years of Urban Media.

This talk is part of the ongoing Data Materiality three-year collaborative reasearch project co-sponsored by the Birkbeck Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Media and Culture, and the Vasari Centre for Art and Technology and organized by Dr. Joel McKim and Dr. Scott Rodgers.