Department of Information Science and Media Studies

Digital Infrastructure: Critical Perspectives

Nordic countries are the most advanced in the world when it comes to digitalisation and are well on their way of becoming digital welfare states. But what does that mean? What are the counter-productive side-effects and unintended negative consequences of digitalisation?

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Welcome to a 1,5 hours webinar with two of the most profiled academics in the the critical public debate that has started in Norway, Denmark and Sweden. In their talks, Signe Sophus Lai from University of Copenhagen and Julia Velkova from Linköping University will analyse the effects of digitalisation from an infrastructure perspective. 

The webinar is hosted by the Journalism Research Group at the Department of Information Science and Media Studies, and will be led by associate professor Carl-Gustav Linden. 

Link to the event will follow. 


Data Centers and Infrastructural Temporalities


Abstract: Emergent media infrastructures tend to be associated with imaginaries of progress and longevity, assuming their permanence and endurance for generations to come. A new form of digital infrastructures built to support global connectivity, machine learning and artificial intelligence – data centres – has also been envisioned in many Northern European countries as harbingers of local welfare, environmental care, and opportunity for rebranding of economically struggling regions. This presentation reflects upon the temporalities of these new infrastructures and the fragility of the local futures associated with them. Drawing upon an example of a recently built and dismantled flagship data center in Helsinki, this presentation sheds light upon the multiple conflicting temporalities and economies that intersect at data centres and the ways in which conflicts and alignments between them are addressed. Discussing the work on time that takes place in data centres suggests how only some temporalities are deemed worth of care, and how data centers could be potentially rendered into objects of quick obsolescence, bursting hopes for local development and giving birth to new forms of digital ruination. 

Bio: Julia Velkova is an assistant professor at the Department for Thematic Studies - Technology and Social Change, Linköping University. Her research focuses on media infrastructures, data materialities and the intersection of digital economies with energy politics. 

Invasive Species of the Digital Ecosystem 
– An empirical framework for measuring and comparing infrastructural power 


Abstract: The presentation establishes a framework for comparing digital communication systems – as comprised of infrastructural, market, and policy structures – across historical and national contexts (Flensburg & Lai, 2019; 2020a; 2020b). On this basis, it outlines two empirical studies of digital infrastructures – one that compares the digital communication system in Denmark across different periods in the history of the Danish internet, and another that looks specifically at infrastructures at the level of applications and data in order to uncover hidden surveillance ecologies. Both studies map infrastructural power structures in order to advance the monitoring and regulation of invasive species inhabiting the digital ecosystem. 

Bio: Signe Sophus Lai is a Tenure Track Assistant Professor at the University of Copenhagen, Department of Communication. Her research is placed at the intersection between infrastructure studies, political economy of communication, and critical data studies, and focuses on the societal implications of datafication, digital infrastructures, and emergent business models for individuals’ abilities to live a good life. She has previously published on digital control mechanisms and infrastructures, commercial tracking, big data, media ethnography, digital methods and media measurements in publications including International Journal of Communication, New Media & Society, Big Data & Society, and Media, Culture & Society.