Budka, P. (2023). Digital and transport infrastructures in remote Canada: Notes on ownership and control. Paper at InfraNorth Workshop “Ethnographies of Infrastructure”, Vienna, Austria: University of Vienna, May 22.
Infrastructures are at the core of many social transformations, sociopolitical developments, and creative processes of innovation. They have become key indicators and signs of economic development, technological advancement, and modernization. Particularly in small and remote communities, infrastructures are often associated with economic growth, socio-economic well-being, and therefore communal sustainability.
This paper looks into the role of digital and transport infrastructures in remote communities in Canada by discussing questions of infrastructural ownership and control. In doing so, it draws on completed ethnographic fieldwork on the development and appropriation of digital infrastructures in Northwestern Ontario as well as on ongoing fieldwork in Northern Manitoba on the affordances of transport infrastructures in relation to sustaining communities; the latter being conducted within the ERC project InfraNorth.
Both cases show that the creation of social relationships and organizational partnerships are key for the planning, developing, building, continuing, and maintaining of infrastructures. At least from an ethnographic and anthropological perspective, infrastructure is therefore much more than just an operational system of technological objects.