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Accepted Paper:

The Unbreakable Vow, or the bicentennial promise to adopt telecommunication infrastructures for development and nation-building in Chile  
Natalia Orrego Tapia (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)

Paper short abstract:

This work is about the Chilean state's promise to adopt, as fast as possible, telecom infrastructures for development and nation-building. Networks like 5G feed the dreams of innovation, economic growth and connectivity. But this desired future is also the past. How can a promise last 200 years?

Paper long abstract:

The following work is about the Chilean state's promise to be the first in the region to adopt telecommunications infrastructures for development and nation-building. This reflection is part of a research on the implementation of 5G in the country, including the expansion of 4G and the dreams for 6G. Using an ethnographic perspective that highlights the mediatization of the infrastructure both inside and outside the screens, in addition to the human labour that supports the antennas, the primacy of an idea is observed: ‘we are the first, the leaders of the region’. The preliminary analyzes are comparative, between observations made on the process of installing and turning on the 5G network, and other processes of implementing telecommunications infrastructure.

The similarities between experiences are uncanny; and the history of the country that yearns for connectivity, economic growth and innovation becomes a characteristic of the present. 'We were the first, the leaders in the region' for 2G and 4G, also for the satellite network and the microwave network; and for radio, television and the telegraph. Ethnography allows us to see the weight of history that lives in each business and ministerial decision, in other words, it shows the vitality of an idea that is historicized and materialized under the electromagnetic spectrum. 200 years are condensed into data at the speed of light, because ’we will be the first, the leaders of the region’. What are the ethnographical challenges to collapse the past, the present and the futures of the promise?

Panel P116b
"Promising Growth": Anthropological Reflections on Sprawling Infrastructure and Inequality
  Session 1 Thursday 28 July, 2022, -