Week 4 Monday reads

This week’s blog reads have been really fun, kicked off by Snezana who went home from hearing about the NBN to a letter:

After discussing the social geography of NBN access in the Illawarra region and seeing my area (Wollongong) as one of the areas with NBN access, I knew exactly what the letter was about. “Now is the time to move your home or business to the nbn”, I thought, ‘how exciting! I’m one step closer to fast downloads, fewer dropouts, better productivity, a brighter future’ – as advertised. I showed my parents the letter. My parents don’t know how to read English very well, so they thought it was just another advertisement that belonged in the bin. But for me, the excitement continued, especially because I have been having weak internet connection recently.

I love this because the changes technology brings into homes are never generic, they’re always about individuals, in particular contexts, responding as they do. Read the rest of the post as Snezana finds out who wants fast broadband in her home, and why. (And for another version of this, check out Bijanka on the Unattainable and Infamous NBN).

I asked Snezana in her comments about how we research this moment of transition for many households. I think it will be important to capture what it’s like not to have good internet access, because this will continue to be the case for many Australians, especially in remote areas. So I was really pleased to read Amelia Murphy’s No Service–SOS only, a story of wiring, pairing and media frustration in remote … Robertson.

My father ranks his experience with wireless internet a 5/10 whereas I would rank it a 1/10. It is overpriced we pay $80 a month for a little stick that drops out of service frequently and only provides 7GB, half of that I use in a day watching Netflix. How can one adequately access the internet with such limited gigabyte usage? Although we gain reception in most areas of the house, weather can severely effect our ability to connect and living in Robertson this can be a severe problem.

Once more with feeling: Robertson? Really?

Eryn Sharp also called home to rural NSW to talk to her family about Fast and (Mostly) Reliable Internet in rural NSW, and dived a bit deeper into where families use their broadband. This is a pretty great interview as it shows us some interesting differences between where men and women use the internet in the home, and follows up a bit on the question of reclaiming sacred spaces from technology, as Sherry Turkle suggested in her TED talk. Eryn’s family are, like many of us, thinking about whether there should be limits to the way we use tech in the home, and where they might be. (For an other version of this reflection, read this very thoughtful post from Emily Bradwell on the hyperconnected family who might not be truly connected.)

At the other end of the rural scale, Angus Baillie’s family are in one of the five NBN pilot towns that we talked about last week, so I was really interested to read about a family that were for spatial reasons early NBN adopters. It’s another good look at how men and women use the internet differently, with a reflective twist at the end that’s really important for ethnographic research.

And what is it that we use fast broadband to do? I was interested in last week’s NBN video that there was very little mention of entertainment. The promises were all about health, work, education, shopping, and enhanced family communication. Nothing about watching media, online gaming, recreational networking (hello, Ashley Madison!), or gambling, all of which are emerging as major beneficiaries of network stability and speed. So I really enjoyed Jess Polak’s post on what being plugged in means to her, and why she’s frustrated by Australia’s poor standing in global internet speeds.

So how do we promote good research that helps us understand what’s going on in homes in these more precise, less generalising ways? Read this excellent contribution from Abbey Cubit on whether recording media activity in the home is an intrusion on privacy, based on her own experience of discreetly watching her housemates and their media use. This reflection is a critical step in thinking about how we do good ethnography in collaboration with others.

And finally, this week a truly beautiful reflection on someone who doesn’t want the internet in her home, “EVER.” Best wishes from all of us to Stephanie’s grandma Patty, who’s in hospital — Stephanie asks us to keep her in our thoughts, and with that story and gorgeous photo, we certainly will.

Thanks so much everyone, I could go on for a long time about this week’s posts. Thoughtful, respectful ethnographic work thickened up with useful, relevant research. And a real pleasure to read.




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