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Innumerable transmissions: WI-FI® from spectacle to movement

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date2006
JournalInformation, Communication and Society
Journal number6
Volume9
Number of pages22
Pages781-802
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This paper analyses Wi-Fi, a mundane wireless networking technology, in terms of a cultural flow of meanings concerning movement of people and data. The principal analytical problem addressed in the paper is how to make sense of the profusion of images, practices, events, objects and social groupings associated with Wi-Fi. Rather than treating the abundance as driven by the IT industry's desire to find the Next Big Thing, or as hype that obscures actual social realities, the paper suggests that different ideas, ambivalences, frustrations and problems with Wi-Fi form part of an ongoing contestation of the meaning and value of information infrastructures. Using a model of culture drawn from Ulf Hannerz, the paper describes how meanings flow in three axes: ideas or modes of thought, forms of externalization and social distributions. Wi-Fi offers a significant opportunity to analyse how different movements of people and data are collectively negotiated and figured. The reflexive and tactical uses of wireless networks to contest ideas of information and movement are key elements of this negotiation.