The Internet as Infrastructure in Lithuania

Whether one considers the Internet itself or its related concepts such as algorithms, artificial intelligence or the Internet of Things, the public conversation still seems to revolve more around the assumed universality of their effects than on their active production and maintenance.

My research is concerned with the Internet production and maintenance0 – its historical development, geopolitical dependencies and maintaining labor practices – in post-socialist Lithuania. I explore the Internet not only as global and transnational, but also as a situated labour product. Inspired by infrastructural inversion (Susan Leigh Star, Geoffrey Bowker), media ethnography (Lisa Parks), but also telecom geopolitics (Wayne Winseck), I am interested in the relation between practices of infrastructuring and politics with the focus on telecom industries.

Lithuania was re-established as an independent state on March 11, 1990. Here, the emergence of the new nation state coincided with the development of the first Internet connection. It was both symbolic and useful, as it allowed Moscow-independent communication with the West. However, Lithuania’s history and geographical location places this country between the centre and the periphery. It does not independently set rules for global telecommunications market development. Instead, it had to find ways to adapt its telecom legacy after the disintegration of the Soviet Union to the new dependencies. Within my research, I am interested in these dependencies and their development. On January 1, 1992 the biggest telecommunication company “Lietuvos Telekomas” was established as a state enterprise, with more than 200 000 people waiting for a telephone line. Fast forward to 2017, and 75% of the households in Lithuania had access to the Internet1.Currently, the Internet in Lithuania is of exceptional quality, and its public Wi-Fi is one of the fastest in the world.2 What kind of labor is needed to develop and maintain the Internet? What role did local and external actors play in its production, development and maintenance? What historical legacy surrounds this very particular type of media development?

Although I aim to situate the Internet production in Lithuania, situating is not a goal in itself. Instead, I hope to contribute to the field of media research by showing how “the Internet” is a complex material infrastructure both universal and particular; researching media for me thus means analysing different layers - political, historical, cultural and labor - which support its development and maintenance.

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1 Informacinės visuomenės plėtros komitetas prie susisiekimo ministerijos. Namų ūkiai, turinys interneto prieigą. In: Informacinės visuomenės plėtros
komitetas prie Susisiekimo ministerijos. Online: statistika.ivpk.lt/temos/55. Retrieved on: 5. June, 2018.

2 Zaliauskiene, L. The top 20 countries with the fastest public WiFi in 2016. In: Rotten Wifi. Online: blog.rottenwifi.com/top-20-countries-fastest-public-wifi-2016-infographic/. Retrieved on: 1. June, 2018

Contact
Miglė Bareikytė
Universitätsallee 1, C40.408
21335 Lüneburg
Fon +49.4131.677-1923
migle.bareikyte@leuphana.de