There is No Cat: Struggles for the Radio Spectrum Past and Present

Meet the Researcher - Dr Rachel O'Dwyer - 25th Feb 5-6pm

We would like to bring your attention and invite you to the National College of Art and Design, Dublin (NCAD) "Meet the Researcher" programme of talks taking place this semester. The goal of these talks is to highlight some of the research taking place at the college to provide an opportunity for staff and students to engage with their fellow researchers, and to welcome our wider public audiences to experience an active research environment. All are welcome to attend.

The third talk in this series will be given by Dr. Rachel O’Dwyer, lecturer in digital cultures in the NCAD School of Visual Culture, on Tuesday 25 February at 5pm in the Harry Clark Lecture Theatre, NCAD. In her talk titled, "There is no Cat: Struggles for the Radio Spectrum Past and Present', O'Dwyer will focus on her current research:

This talk is about a book I have been writing... forever. It looks at the history and politics of the radio spectrum, the collection of radio waves that are central to everything from radio and mobile phones through to contactless payments, 5G and the Internet of things. It asks how invisible radio waves become some 'thing' that could be owned and controlled by governments and corporations, how that ownership is changing, and what strategies, from pirate radio through to community mesh networks, artists and activists have used to critique and challenge this system. In a more general way it's a book about surveillance capitalism and the kinds of infrastructures and ownership models that are necessary for that system, and asks what the political possibilities of artistic and activist interventions are at a time when the infrastructural control and extent of large platforms can seem overwhelming. 

About My Research
I'm always trying to compose the perfect sentence to describe my research and never really managing it. Since Shoshana Zuboff's book was published in 2018, a shorthand for my research would be to say it's in the area of surveillance capitalism: exploring how value is extracted through networks and platforms, with a particular focus on digital money, mobile networks and payments. I also explore the modes of resistance that emerge to surveillance capitalism, with an emphasis on artistic and activist practices. This recent paper Cache Society is quite illustrative. Most of my work is within the money/payments space, but I explored similar themes of online surveillance, data monetisation and resistance in my PhD research through the lens of struggles around mobile networks and the enclosure of radio spectrum. I'm close to finishing a manuscript that deals with this topic.

The NCAD Meet the Researcher programme is free and open to public audiences. All welcome.


Image: Pretty Fly For A Wifi (2014) - Roel Roscam Abbing