Life-media for a wireless world: participatory democracy and the radio spectrum in Canada and Uruguay

Evan Light (evan@theotherthing.org)
Faculté de communication, Université du Québec à Montréal
October, 2012
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Evan Light is a lecturer at the École des médias and an associated researcher at the Centre de recherche GRICIS, at the Université du Québec à Montréal.
 

Abstract

The radio spectrum is rapidly becoming the central medium through which society engages in communication. Due to a variety of factors, formerly disparate forms of radio communication (radio, television, cellular telephony, WiFi) are converging around the ethereal form of the spectrum. The future orientation of this convergence depends greatly on the actors involved in the design of communications regulation, technology and of its uses. This thesis details a comprehensive history of wireless communication and regulation while constructing a new political economy of the spectrum built on a foundation of social justice. It then presents an epistemological approach that attempts to recalibrate society's relationship with the radio spectrum. I propose that the spectrum, in that it is a natural part of our environment and occupies such central role in our ability to exist as communicative social beings, must be considered a form of “life-media”. It's regulation thus must be held to the highest level of participation, transparency and accountability.

The research project is built around an international comparative case study and examines the capacity for public participation in spectrum policy-making in Canada and Uruguay. It relies upon extensive documentary evidence, interviews with law-makers, national and international regulators, civil society organizations, independent experts, government ministers and representatives of the private sector. Diagnostics are rendered concerning each country and practical policy recommendations are made that speak not only to the specifics of spectrum policy but the very fabric of democratic society itself.
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