Digital infrastructure, ultra-fast broadband, and citizenship in the Gigatown competition in the South Island, Aotearoa New Zealand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Gigatown (2013–2014) was a joint initiative between the telecommunications company Chorus and the New Zealand government to award a town ‘The fastest internet in the Southern Hemisphere’ through a social media competition. Gigatown involved the production, by participating towns, of social media content that demonstrated the economic and other benefits of ultra-fast broadband and gigabit connectivity. This paper argues that the competition’s logics are biopolitical in the valorization of citizenship as tied to social media and information and communications technologies (ICT) proficiency. Focusing on the South Island city of Dunedin, and drawing on the conceptual framework of somatechnics for understanding the embodied relationship between governance and technology, I show how the competition somatechnically positions residents as consumer-citizens whose social media proficiency and digital labour facilitate their participation in policy planning and development. In order to meet infrastructural planning priorities for the penetration of ultra-fast broadband into business and consumer domains, the competition incited and relied on residents’ civic love and volunteer labour for their city’s future. Such labour is ‘spaced-off’ as de-materialized and de-territorialized, construed as something done for fun in spare time, which left some participants experiencing burnout in their somatechnical embodiment of active digital citizenship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)783-800
Number of pages18
JournalContinuum
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Mar 2024

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