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Accepted Paper:

Anticipation as a quality: the historic futures of mobile infrastructure  
Natalia Orrego Tapia (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)

Paper short abstract:

This work is about anticipation as a key quality of mobile infrastructure. The scales and processes that overlap between Gs, including the 5G rollout and 6G development, create a peculiar timescape. How to understand an infrastructure that tends to be configured by its historic overlapping futures?

Paper long abstract:

The following work aims to characterize and problematize anticipation as one of the main qualities of mobile infrastructure, focusing on the methodological dimension of its study. It is part of a broader research about the 5G rollout in Chile and the development of technological innovations for the infrastructure. This research uses an ethnographic approach that concentrates on the workers, public and private policies; and audiences of the process. A starting point is how the infrastructure has a peculiar timescape, where the ‘evolution’ of the technological generations is naturalized the same as the overlap between their development and implementation. 5G does not exist without the goal of creating 6G nor the technical support of 4G, the same as 4G didn’t exist without 5G and 3G in the same sense.

Here, the paper highlights the methodological challenges of investigating the techno-temporal layers of the network, for example, the rhythm of media coverage and the openness of the implementation in a convoluted world. Corporate documents, news, tweets and retweets, and reports from the tech industry become central to researching the discourses of anticipation. In terms of practices, the future is consumed as media and new technologies. Both arrive before the infrastructure, making 5G an object of desire that populates the material world. This work hopes to open the dialogue between time and mobile infrastructure (and technology) through the repeated anticipation of the next generation. How to understand an infrastructure that tends to be configured by its historic overlapping futures?

Panel P27a
Life Itself. Anthropology and Anticipation.
  Session 1 Monday 6 June, 2022, -