• Producing “Participation”? The Pleasures and Perils of Technical Engagement in Radio Activism

    Christina Dunbar-Hester (see profile)
    Science and Technology Studies (STS)
    Science--Study and teaching, Technology--Study and teaching, Participation, Alternative mass media, Affect (Psychology)
    Item Type:
    Media Activism, technical practice, Science and technology studies (STS), Participatory Culture, Alternative media, Radio, Affect
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    Twenty people spent a weekend gathered around two refrigerator-sized FM radio transmitters inside a large truck parked on a busy street. These large machines were unwieldy: over thirty years old, they were heavy to move, frustratingly dark to work in, and required high electric current to operate. They were not in working order; they were filthy inside and out and miss- ing various components. After two full days of labor directed toward diagnosing and repairing the machines, arguably little progress had occurred; the transmitters, though cleaner, were still not functional, and hardly closer to being so. They were placed into storage. How might the events of this weekend offer insight into media activism and the politics of technology? This episode reveals an underexamined intersection of politics, technical practice, work, and pleasure, which is compelling because it binds together contrasting strands of activism and technical practice. This activity is significant as a form of social organization at the edge of civil society, participatory culture, paid labor, volunteer work, productive activity, and amateur pursuit, cutting across these categories without hewing cleanly to any of them. In particular, the tensions exhibited here allow us to draw out differing, if not opposing, strands of the politics of technical engagement, containing both pitfalls and possibilities. As this article will show, imparting technical skill was a priority, but arguably more important to this activist project was deepening political and affective commitment and constructing technology as a site to enact participatory politics and challenge elite expertise.
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    3 years ago
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