Infrastructures and Inequalities: Media industries, digital cultures and politics
Conference program at a glance

Venue: Metsätalo building (2nd floor), University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
Address: Unioninkatu 40, Helsinki
Keynote sessions will be streamed.

Monday 21 October

08:30 — 09:00 Registration (Metsätalo building, 2nd floor)
09:00 — 09:15 Welcome (Lecture hall 6)
Julia Velkova, University of Helsinki

09:15 — 10:15 Keynote session (Lecture hall 6)

Lisa Parks, Massachussets Institute of Technology
Glimpses of Network Sovereignty: Materialities of Media Infrastructure in Tanzania

Chair: Anne Kaun, Södertörn University
Link to online stream:

This talk addresses the question of infrastructural equalities by analyzing the labor and resource challenges inherent in moving the global internet from undersea cable landings in urban areas to rural, low-income communities in Tanzania. Tanzania hosts four major undersea cable landings, suggesting that the country’s 51 million people would be well integrated within global broadband fibre optic networks. Despite Tanzanians’ close proximity to major internet gateways and the country’s innovative regulatory climate (van Gorp & Maitland, 2009), limited electrical and terrestrial telecommunication infrastructure prevents most citizens from benefitting from these cable landings. This study uses ethnographic fieldwork, including site visits and interviews with workers at network facilities and the national data center in Dar es Salaam and the Mara region, to investigate the material conditions undergirding these paradoxical dynamics. Building on my past research on rural connectivity in neighboring Zambia, this study will also explore how labor and resource conditions have affected an initiative called the Serengeti Broadband Network (SBN), which began in 2007 to establish broadband connectivity across 15 villages in one of Tanzania’s remote interior regions. Ultimately, the talk will draw upon this empirical research to explore how limited forms of network sovereignty may emerge within contexts of broader infrastructural inequalities.

10:15 — 10:30 Break
10:30 — 12:00 Parallel Paper Sessions 1 (Rooms 7, 8, and 12)
12:00 — 13:00 Lunch
13:00 — 14:30 Parallel Paper Sessions 2 (Rooms 8 and 12)


Early-career scholars’ workshop 1: How to build and sustain researcher networks (room 5)
14:30 — 14:45 Break
14:45 — 16:15 Parallel Paper Sessions 3 (Room 7, 8 and 12)
16:15 — 16:30 Break
16:30 — 18:00 Parallel Paper Sessions 4 (Rooms 7, 8 and 12)
18:30 — 20:00 Reception (Porthania building, Yliopistonkatu 3)

Tuesday 22 October

09:15 — 10:15 Keynote session (Lecture hall 6)
Kaarina Nikunen, University of Tampere
Regarding the hate of others: digital infrastructures, data imaginaries and material solidarity

Chair: Sander de Ridder, University of Ghent
Link to online stream.

This talk explores the role of digital infrastructures for our understandings of and possibilities to further solidarity and social justice. The recent rise of populist and far-right movements in the Nordic countries and across the globe has brought about concern over intensification of circulation of affective racist and misogynist discourse through digital media, particularly on and across social media platforms. A growing body of research has investigated the management and circulation of ‘hate speech’. I critically discuss the ways in which these studies address the role of infrastructures in terms of intensifying and/or advancing discourses and practices of hostility. To understand the complexity of these processes and to avoid simple technological determinism, there is a need for a more contextualized approach on circulation of racism and hate speech. The paper further explores connections of these dynamics to larger shifts in media ecosystem with the rise of anti-democratic media, hidden mechanisms of data surveillance and invisibility of power. Finally, I discuss the concept of material solidarity, inspired by feminist scholarship, as a way to approach new initiatives that strive to create ethical public media spaces and imagine alternatives to communicative capitalism.

10:15 — 10:30 Break
10:30 — 12:00 Parallel Paper Sessions 5
(Rooms 7, 8 and 12)
12:00 — 13:00 Lunch break (+ Section Business Meetings)
13.00 — 14:30 Parallel Paper Sessions 6 (Rooms 8 and 12)


Early-career scholar’ workshop 2: Why bother? Expert communication on social media (room 5)
14:30 — 14:45 Break
14:45 — 16:15 Parallel Paper Sessions 7 (Rooms 7, 8 and 12)
16:15 — 16:30 Break
16:30 — 17:45 Plenary Panel (Lecture hall 6)
The relevance of Infrastructure Studies to Media Industries, Digital Cultures and Democracy research


  • Catherine Johnson, University of Huddersfield;
  • Julia Velkova, University of Helsinki
  • Lisa Parks (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US)
  • David Hesmondhalgh (University of Leeds, UK);
  • Kaarina Nikunen (University of Tampere, Finland)
  • Jean-Christophe Plantin (London School of Economics, UK)

17:45 Goodbye