Signal Traffic

Critical Studies of Media Infrastructures
Author: Edited by Lisa Parks and Nicole Starosielski
Inside the technological objects, geophysical locations, and material resources that network the world
Cloth – $110
Paper – $28
eBook – $14.95
Publication Date
Cloth: 06/15/2015
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About the Book

In Signal Traffic, editors Lisa Parks and Nicole Starosielski use the term "media infrastructure" to signal a shift in critical focus and approach that questions the international telecommunication network as a given. Contributors instead confront vital questions concerning the multiple and hybrid forms networks take, the different ways they are imagined and engaged with by publics around the world, their local effects, and what human beings experience when a network fails.

Exploring such issues leads some of the essayists to examine the physical objects and industrial relations that make up an infrastructure. Others venture into the marginalized communities that live on the edges of media infrastructures--people orphaned from the knowledge economies, technological literacies, and epistemological questions linked to infrastructural formation and use. The wide-ranging insights delineate the oft-ignored contrasts across industrialized and developing regions, rich and poor areas, and urban and rural settings, bringing technological differences into focus.

Contributors include Charles R. Acland, Paul Dourish, Sarah Harris, Jennifer Holt, Shannon Mattern, Toby Miller, Lisa Parks, Christian Sandvig, Nicole Starosielski, Jonathan Sterne, Helga Tawil-Souri, and Patrick Vonderau.

About the Author

Lisa Parks is director of the Center for Information Technology and Society, professor of film and media studies at University of California at Santa Barbara, and winner of a 2018 MacArthur Fellowship. She is the author of Cultures in Orbit: Satellites and the Televisual. Nicole Starosielski is assistant professor of media, culture, and communication at New York University.

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"This highly original and thought-provoking volume does a good job of pointing out the remaining gaps in the field and makes a strong case for considering distribution from technological, economic, and political standpoints." --European Journal of Communication

"A vivid picture of the vital, essential, and fundamental role that infrastructure plays in the mediation of our world. . . . With an all-star lineup of media scholars engaging with cutting-edge technology from a range of intellectual approaches, Signal Traffic doesn't just offer an important and timely contribution to the study of media, but also makes a powerful argument for the central role that issues of distribution play in the circuit of culture; it leaves the reader with a strong sense that media scholarship can no longer ignore the material infrastructures at the heart of our media systems." --Information Society


"Finally, a definitive collection on infrastructure studies. Moving from compression to geopolitics to platforms, this book crystalizes what's at stake in moving media studies away from focusing on what appears on our screen towards how content travels and, through this movement, is shaped and re-shaped in profound ways."--Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, author of Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics

"The first and only collection of its kind I know. This book is going to be a big deal, both nationally and internationally."--Vicki A. Mayer, author of Below the Line: Producers and Production Studies in the New Television Economy

"In an age when we are led to believe that information and communication are virtual rather than material, Signal Traffic provides a much-needed corrective, reminding us that behind the pixels and mp3s lie extensive and complex infrastructures that shape how we inhabit the emerging media environment. This book revives the tradition of critical attention to material infrastructure in media and communication studies, and not a moment too soon."--Darin Barney, author of The Network Society


• Best Edited Collection Award, Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS), 2015-2016