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Accepted Contribution:

After controversy: navigating the 5G stalemate with STS  
Nona Schulte-Römer (Humboldt University Berlin)

Short abstract:

The rollout of 5G, the fifth generation of wireless communication technology, is in full swing, but 5G risk governance has reached a stalemate. How can STS research offer diverse and comprehensive perspectives in a politicised transformation process where public controversy is no longer encouraged?

Long abstract:

Controversies surrounding the risks of 5G are currently hampered by a stalemate between two camps. On one side, official risk assessment institutions assure European citizens that electromagnetic radiation below existing exposure limits poses no health risks. On the other side, opponents of ubiquitous wireless communication networks reject the scientific evidence underlying these limits as too narrow and biased. After previous unsuccessful attempts to resolve public controversies over 4G and 3G, there is little political will to address health concerns about 5G in 'hybrid forums' (Callon, Lascoumes, Barthe 2011). Mutual trust in the integrity of the other side has been lost. In Germany, opponents of wireless networks accuse governmental risk assessors of being too close to industry. The German government avoids debates with 'unconvertible' opponents and frames public concerns about 5G as a problem of lacking or decontextualised information. Meanwhile, the European Commission and EU member states are pushing for the deployment of 5G in all populated areas.

In this stalemate, co-developing a survey with electrohypersensitive (EHS) people inevitably becomes political. Since the causal relationship between EHS and EMF is not officially acknowledged, it forces us as STS researchers to position ourselves wisely. This talk will address the challenges we face in the WAVEMATTERS research project as we develop research partnerships and artistic formats to promote dialogue and knowledge production. Our aim is to open up spaces for controversy through different and more 'diplomatic' means (cf. Stengers 2011), even if this may slow down the roll-out of 5G.

Combined Format Open Panel P317
Calling controversy, again: what role for STS?
  Session 2 Thursday 18 July, 2024, -