Rural Broadband Expansion in the United States: Citizen Perception as a Social Process
20 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2012
Date Written: August 15, 2010
While the macroeconomic and social inclusion benefits of broadband are well understood, there is little investigation into the question of how it is that citizens come to understand and interpret broadband as a matter of wider social importance, and how they engage with processes of broadband deployment and adoption. Based on an ethnographic study of three rural areas in the United States, we found that both elites and the disadvantaged, policymakers at various levels and ordinary citizens, drew on the same set of cultural understandings to interpret what broadband expansion means to them, and at the same time steer broadband deployments in ways they saw fit. These cultural understandings enabled a conversation to be had about what broadband means amongst these actors, and enabled ordinary people to be engaged with broadband policy. We found three social and cultural principles that are longstanding artifacts of American culture that set the terms of engagement amongst the actors: beliefs about individual autonomy and agency, notions of citizenship (i.e., how people come to be included), and ideas about social class and hierarchy.
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