The Social Life of XG (SoLiXG)

Digital infrastructures and the reconfiguration of sovereignty and imagined communities

Post-pandemic recovery plans in the EU and the UK involve an unprecedented expansion of digital infrastructures that promise to strengthen the resilience and sovereignty of the European Union and ‘upgrade’ the UK respectively. These new technologies will be part of the social fabric of everyday life and will be invested with new meanings and imaginations. “The Social Life of XG” (SoLiXG) explores infrastructural imaginaries in relation to ideas of community, borders and sovereignty.

In his seminal work on imagined communities, Benedict Anderson has shown how the technologies of printing have promoted notions of communities as nations, as sovereign and as bounded entities. We ask: What technologies form the basis of notions of community in the contemporary? Based on the point that today’s technological infrastructures are rapidly changing and in need of constant renewal, we observe that with the introduction of fifth generation (5G) technology standards, the generational shift to »6G« and »7G« is already on the horizon. Our acronym »XG« therefore stands to indicate the changing nature of today’s technology.

The fpllowing questions guide our research: What infrastructural imaginaries shape the processes of digital transformation? How do material infrastructures of “XG” encounter challenges or conflicts in local environments; how do they change everyday practices and discourses? What alternative infrastructural imaginaries can we identify in thought and practice, and how do they enable different notions of sovereignty and community?

To understand how new technologies are involved in shaping new communities, new notions of boundaries and sovereignty, this project explores notions of XG in different dimensions: a) at the level of institutional and policy frameworks; b) among technology developers such as telecommunications companies and innovation centres; and c) in local environments that we expect to be strongly affected by digital transformation, in neighbourhoods, workplaces or health services. SoLiXG considers these issues as questions of socio-cultural change in order to understand how XG, and the ideas associated with it, attain social life. We bring together perspectives from migration and cultural studies, political science, sociology and queer feminist technoscience from the EU and the UK, as well as a range of partners working on the materiality of infrastructures, emancipatory applications of technology or the development of digital infrastructures.

Consortium: Manuela Bojadžijev, Humboldt-University Berlin, Institute for European Ethnology, Germany; Roland Atzmüller, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Department for the Theory of Society and Social Analyses, Austria; Helen V. Pritchard, University of Plymouth, iDAT, United Kingdom; Stefan Jonsson, Professor, Linköping University, Department of Culture and Society, IKOS, Sweden + Femke Snelting, The Institute for Technology in the Public Interest; Magnus Frodigh, Ericsson Research, Ericsson AB; Prof. Dr. Philipp Misselwitz, Bauhaus der Erde.

2022-2025, Funded by CHANSE (Collaboration of Humanities and Social Sciences in Europe) and UKRI (UK Research and Innovation)