Published on May 15th, 2020
GMTaC lab RA Iago and Han successfully defensed their theses. Here are the abstracts.
Media Cartographies of Broadband Access in Brazil: The Case of the Geostationary Defense and Strategic Communications Satellite (SGDC-1) and Rural Schools
by Iago Bojczuk
The launch of the Geostationary Defense and Strategic Communications Satellite (SGDC-1) in 2017 materialized the Brazilian government’s long-standing political desire to achieve national strategic communications. Representing one of the most expensive investments in the space and telecommunication sectors in 21st-century Brazil, the SGDC-1 emerged in the public discourse not only as a high-capital and sophisticated artifact capable of fostering national pride but also as a savior of broadband Internet connectivity for Brazil’s rural and remote schools. This thesis critically examines media cartographies and discourses surrounding the SGDC-1 and points out how Brazil’s strategic agendas and modernization campaigns were channeled into connectivity initiatives in rural schools.
By offering a humanistic approach to untangle the complex systems that enable the SGDC-1’s operations throughout Brazil’s territory, I unravel major points of contention in the conceptualization of rural schools as “dark spots of information” in government discourses. I then proceed to explore the government’s use of the televisual as part of its strategy to frame what I call a “space-telecom propaganda.” Drawing upon materials including government reports, popular press articles, datasets, court hearings, televisual texts, and satellite footprint maps, I demonstrate how the SGDC-1 functions not only as a high-technological artifact but also as a political tool interwoven with the government’s efforts to shape how citizens engage with notions of the “global village” and “digital divide.”
Through a critical media studies approach, I describe how the satellite’s sociotechnical relations reveal what remains largely obscure to Brazilian publics. From questions pertinent to militarization, governance, and public-private partnerships to issues of long-term strategies, sustainability, and potential infrastructural disruptions, I argue these issues deserve public scrutiny as the SGDC project might be at stake in the foreseeable future given the current political conditions. To mitigate those potential shortcomings, I suggest the creation of a National Internet Satellite Plan to undertake some of these questions and orient future policy frameworks that may rely on the SGDC’s constellation for broadband-enabled inclusion, national integration, community development, and socioeconomic progress.
Professor of Comparative Media Studies
Professor of Science, Technology, & Society
Theory and Practice Towards A Decentralized Internet
by Han Su
Why is it the case that Web 2.0 ideals have been reestablished and taken over by centralized apps? What is the root cause behind privacy breaches, data ownership problems, and surveillance capitalism? It is the lack of data interoperability on today’s Internet that has led to the deprivation of netizen participation and representation in the data economy. What methodology could we use to analyze these problems? What new paradigms of online interactions and technological developments are changing the status quo and moving the Internet toward a decentralized web?
This thesis scrutinizes the evolution of Internet technologies, the changing paradigms of netizens’ online interactions, and the socioeconomic structures of Internet platforms in the larger context of the proposed shift from a centralized web to a decentralized one. I propose a three capital model as the fundamental framework to help analyze problems faced by today’s Internet. I illustrate the emerging social video and social e-commerce platforms’ production paradigms that have won them the comparative advantages against big platforms.
I argue that data interoperability is the key to change the siloed app ecosystem toward a more decentralized direction. The third chapter examines the different attempts made by the industry to increase interoperability at different levels—software level, platform level, and infrastructure level. If Web 1.0 granted netizens the right to view online content, and Web 2.0 has given netizens the right to publish in a participatory manner, I envision that Web 3.0 will enable netizens to access personal storage and computation. I propose a breakthrough test and show how projects like SoLid can help to realize data interoperability, and how new ?? technological and marketing infrastructures can recuperate netizens’ right for data ownership and representation in the data economy and online content market.
Professor of Chinese media and Cultural Studies
S.C. Fang Professor of Chinese Language & Culture