Accepted Paper:

Infrastructures of Modernization  


Phoebe Sengers (Cornell University)

Paper short abstract:

Change Islands, Newfoundland was rapidly modernized in the 1960's. New infrastructures from power to roads introduced new conditions of existence, only some of which are viable on a remote island. Change Islands is a place to query how being modern is, and is not, produced by means of technology.

Paper long abstract:

In the 1950's the government of Newfoundland & Labrador began an ambitious project to transform this new Canadian province from an impoverished rural backwater to an industrial economy. Central to this plan was the organized movement of most of its population from isolated fishing villages to centralized settlements allowing easier access to services and infrastructures. Change Islands was one of a few villages that actively resisted this move and insisted instead on modernizing in place. Within a few years, the village was overrun with unfamiliar technologies, including electricity, telephone, television, cars, roads, and running water. These new infrastructures introduced, sometimes accidentally, sometimes purposefully, new conditions of existence. They both assumed and produced new cognitive habits, orientations to labor, experiences of time, requirements for accountability, and moral norms, many of which do not match well to the geographical and social requirements of remote, rural communities. Caught up in contradictions, Change Islands is today simultaneously experienced as a dying relic, as a cherished preserve for traditional practices, and as unrecognizably modernized. It is a place to query how the condition of being modern is, and is not, produced by means of technology.

Panel T155
Islands on the Cutting Edge: Test sites for reimagining future technoscience