Fabian Prieto-Ñañez: Connected on Our Own Terms – Satellite Dishes, Media Consumption and Technological Entrepreneurship in Colombia (1979-1998)
My project focuses on the circulation of satellite TV reception technologies by local entrepreneurs in Colombia during the 1980s and 1990s. Satellite dishes and Community Antenna Television (CATV) allowed the flow of foreign television channels to different populations, who organized themselves to collectively pay for the necessary infrastructure. As such, satellite earth stations, extended the availability of content for different populations in Colombia, representing a challenge to Colombian National Television. While initially, the influence of content coming from foreign countries concerned the government, later these systems became a platform for pay-per-view services and in some cases, for the emergence of local channels of community TV. My research not only examines the role of these systems in changing media consumption, but also the different roles these infrastructures played in everyday life in Colombia. My research focuses on the social life of these still visible but mostly forgotten infrastructures (Von Schnitzler, 2016), as a way to understand media consumption in a country like Colombia. As sites for understanding how politics work, infrastructures can reveal international and local social aspirations, particularly in Latin America, where infrastructure can symbolize perfect designs or represent monuments of political abandonment (Hetherington & Campbell, 2014). In this way, a media studies approach to infrastructures emphasizes the circulation of signals as “a critical shift away from the analysis of screened content alone” (Parks & Starosielski, 2015).
Fabian Prieto-Ñañez is a PhD candidate in Communications and Media at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He studies satellite television and the circulation of satellite reception technologies in Colombia since the 1980s, with a focus on the Caribbean region. His research explores entrepreneurship and technological disruption related to media consumption. He is interested in examining the social life of artifacts, and in particular, how they are considered obsolete. Before starting his PhD studies, he worked on histories of computing in Latin America, especially on professional education and governmental policies in Colombia during the 1980s.