Network Sovereignty

This three-year project, supported by the National Science Foundation, uses fieldwork and ethnographic methods to investigate how low-income, rural communities conceptualize and practice “network sovereignty” in relation to local network initiatives. Focusing on three case studies — a) the Serengeti Broadband Network in Tanzania; b) the Rhizomatica Project in Oaxaca, Mexico; and c) the Blackfeet Community College (BCC) in Browning, Montana — the project explores whether local attempts to own and operate internet and mobile phone infrastructures have empowered “last mile” communities; analyzes and compares how internet and mobile phone use are reshaping sociotechnical relations in these communities; and identifies a set of local network initiative “best practices” for broader circulation.

The specific aims of the project are to: 1) facilitate understanding of internet and mobile phone infrastructures from the perspectives of historically marginalized communities; 2) develop collaborative research methods that include community engagement and education; 3) organize a workshop with all partners in year 3 of the project where “best practices” will be shared; 4) present preliminary findings at conferences; and 5) produce a public research blog and series of refereed scholarly publications. 

Principal Investigators: Ramesh Srinivasan (UCLA) and Lisa Parks (MIT)