SAGE Journals

Contesting Infrastructural Futures: 5G Opposition as a Technological Drama

Posted on 2023-01-04 - 13:08

This paper addresses the public contestation of the rollout of the fifth generation of mobile telecommunications networks (5G) in the Netherlands. Drawing on Pfaffenberger’s framework of technological dramas, we analyze the variety of symbolic expressions about 5G made in documents published by “design constituencies” leading the technology’s implementation, “ambivalent intermediaries” reporting on 5G’s implementation and its emerging controversial status in the news, and by “impact constituencies” who organize on Facebook to oppose against 5G. The analysis describes a variety of publicly performed narratives and activities that build on symbolic meanings of a supposed public need for 5G, imaginaries of 5G futures, and scientifically manageable and responsible innovation. The paper demonstrates how the technological drama of 5G is constituted by tensions between different interpretations of these publicly performed meanings. However, amidst the drama, meanings of public need and imaginaries of 5G futures are temporarily suspended, constraining the stage for opposition and enforcing partial closure of the conflict.


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