Where Freedom Dreams Meet Sociotechnical Imaginaries

Authors: Emma Slager*, University of Washington - Tacoma
Topics: Urban Geography
Keywords: digital geographies, black geographies, Internet, imagination, Detroit
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/9/2020
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Granite B, Hyatt Regency, Third Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In this paper, I bring together Jasanoff and Kim’s (2009, 2015) concept of sociotechnical imaginaries and Kelley’s (2002) concept of freedom dreams to analyze the socio-political underpinnings of community wireless Internet provision in Detroit, MI. Sociotechnical imaginaries are “collectively imagined forms of social life and social order reflected in the design and fulfillment of … technological projects” (Jasanoff and Kim 2009, p. 120). These collective, normative visions, which are co-constituted with political community formation, frame and bound technoscientific projects. Here, I examine how sociotechnical imaginaries are shaped by freedom dreams, or what Kelley describes as the “poetic knowledge” that characterizes Black radical movements for liberation and social change (2002, p. 9). Using ethnographic methods, I trace the influence of Black radicalism, theology, and Afrofuturism on technology organizing in Detroit, and I analyze how the freedom dreams reflected in these influences shape the goals, strategies, and network architectures of community wireless Internet projects in the city.

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