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Accepted Contribution:

Into the antenna forest: a recent history of saturation activism in Chile  
Natalia Orrego Tapia (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)

Short abstract:

The paper delineates the recent history of protests against cellphone antennas in Chile between the expansions of the 2G and 5G networks (1997-2023), proposing the concept of ‘saturation activism’ to understand the tension between needing and questioning radiant infrastructure.

Long abstract:

The following paper delineates the recent history of activism against cellphone antennas in Chile, starting with the first protests under the expansion of the 2G network at the beginning of the millennium and ending with the current demands of organisations and activists against the expansion of the 5G network. This presentation is part of ongoing doctoral research about the implementation of the 5G network in the country, mixing archival research, ethnography and social media observations to give a dense characterisation of the process.

The preliminary analysis shows waves of local protests that push - but also validate - regulatory discussions. These protests, over 120 in numerous territories, have a common thread regarding the concerns about the biological effects of electromagnetic radiation. Even though the National Tower Law of 2012 indirectly recognises possible adverse biological effects, mainly in antenna-saturated areas, the lack of solutions to lower radiation remains a core claim through infrastructure generations. Other focal points have changed in priority, such as the unpleasing aesthetics of phone masts or their impact on property value.

This brief history amplifies the present, giving nuances to the stigma around 5G critics. The temporally diverse protests create peculiar activism, where citizens know the importance of mobile telecommunications for economic development, socio-natural disaster management, and more. Hence, their politics is not against the infrastructure as a whole but against its hyper presence, its hyper visibility. The paper closes by proposing the concept of ‘saturation activism’ to understand the tension between needing and questioning radiant infrastructure.

Combined Format Open Panel P055
Making 5G Matter: Transformations In Network Infrastructure And Research
  Session 1 Wednesday 17 July, 2024, -