American Ethnological Society
Oral Presentation Session
This paper explores the aesthetic and sensorial worlds associated with the circulation of digital media above the Cuban rooftops. Based on a project that involves illustrated storytelling, the poetic of digital infrastructure proposes novel ways of engaging with the digital world while conducting ethnographic fieldwork. Drawings and storytelling offer sensorial ways of delving into the experience of digital media in addition to propose a more accessible avenue to share ethnographic material not limited to the academic world. Isaac is the character who will lead us in the mysterious world of Cuban internet and into the business of illicit wi-fi connections. Wi-fi represents a form of freedom from cables and heavy infrastructures of communication. Yet, as we reflect on Isaac’s story, we realize that the circulation of those precious signals in the sky is supported by a weighty physical infrastructure, even if we do not notice it. The story combined with the drawing show that the ingenuity of Cubans to dig into these complex systems, often with little resources and information, to respond to an unreliable infrastructure and to cope with digital scarcity, is laudable. There is indeed, nothing light about wi-fi signals.