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Making 5G matter: transformations in network infrastructure and research 
Rory Sharp (York University)
Adrien Tournier (CNAM-HT2S)
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Niels ten Oever (University of Amsterdam)
Rory Sharp (York University)
Adrien Tournier (CNAM-HT2S)
Combined Format Open Panel

Short Abstract:

It is clear that 5G makes a difference, but for a variety of factors it is far from settled what difference that difference makes. This combined format open panel seeks to convene new conversations about the transformations accompanying 5G, both to the information environment and network topology.

Long Abstract:

At the intersection of geopolitical struggle between global superpowers, domestic panics about viral conspiracy theories, and rapidly changing network infrastructures, 5G technology has emerged as a unique object of concern and contestation. This combined format open panel invites participants to present new research and engage in roundtable discussion on the transformations affected by the rollout of 5G devices and telecommunication networks. Such changes are broadly distributed and uniquely suited to the modalities offered by STS. They encompass global trade tensions, novel design choices by standard setters, and sustainable development goals, as well as renewed campaigns to define the place of wireless technology in contemporary society. To adequately address these transformations and the challenges they bring with them, critical scholarship on 5G must navigate between the quicksand of conspiratorial disinformation and the mirage of heavily financialized technosolutionism. This panel seeks to gather together a variety of researchers working in diverse locales on different aspects of 5G, in order to identify common obstacles, share collective insights, and advance the vocabulary of critical 5G research. Of special concern are the material contexts in which 5G technologies are situated, the workings of power in telecommunication networks, and their potentials for democratic engagement. What can the socio-technical differences 5G makes tell us about moments of transition? With this panel, we hope to make 5G matter as more than a marketing fad or lurid conspiracy theory and transform the terrain of 5G research in STS and related fields. We welcome proposals for paper presentations, workshops, and dialogue sessions.

Accepted contributions:

Session 1