Available in Selected Metros Only: Rural Melancholy and the Promise of Online Connectivity
This article considers the benefits a cultural studies perspective can offer debates around rural and regional telecommunications provision. It begins with a critique of the metrocentrism dominant in recent scholarship of new media, arguing that academic, business and government discourses share progressivist assumptions in equating online connectivity with freedom. It highlights how the gap between the promotion of connectivity and actually existing infrastructure leads to an ontological resilience among rural residents who 'make do' with deferred promises of community and participation. The relationship this bears to the political subjectivities described in recent queer theory is briefly explored. The article develops to suggest that a parachute model of policy consultation privileges those in rural communities with the social and cultural capital to advance established interests – leaving the everyday lives of the majority of residents unrecognised. In encouraging ethnographic studies of technology use that spend time in rural locations, the paper concludes that the different priorities that drive country life – the prominence of environmental concerns, the importance of civic institutions, and above all, distance from the temporalities that dictate the terms for assessing political participation – offer important correctives to the ideologies of individualism and innovation that drive new media consumption.
Rural Australia; telecommunications; community; media