Remote communities, material entanglements and information and communications technologies as double agents
Keywords:Media technologies; New materialism; Agential realism; Entanglement; Sarawak.
Digital devices and Information and Communications Technology or ICT play a prominent role in most people’s everyday lives, as the often unconscious, mostly unacknowledged entanglements between people, devices and infrastructure shape contemporary lives and co-determine activities and their outcomes. Communications technologies are particularly agentic for people who live in rural and remote parts of the world because they often lack easy access to goods and services that are ubiquitous in more urbanized areas. At the same time, access to ICTs in these areas is often tenuous because the maintenance of ICT infrastructure is not always economically viable.
This paper examines emerging techno-lifeworlds in remote villages in Malaysia and their social, economic and political context through a new materialist lens. I argue that the entanglements with digital technologies and the resulting diffractions can result in increased agency for those involved. At the same time as this new materialist focus emphasizes the agentic role of devices and infrastructure, it allows for thinking through the power relationships that are implicated in the regional techno-politics and the economic and political interests that determine the material access to communications infrastructure.
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