Mobile Media & Communication
Almost as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading throughout much of the world, conspiracies arose that blamed the virus on the deployment of fifth-generation cellular networks (5G) infrastructure. These conspiracies had significant consequences, including protests against 5G and the destruction of 5G infrastructure. This article uses a media genealogy approach to place the 5G/COVID-19 conspiracies within the long and recurring cycle of conspiracies focused on mobile infrastructure. Placed within that broader history, this article argues that the 5G/COVID-19 conspiracies should have been unsurprising, and these types of infrastructural conspiracies should be a more significant part of mobile media and communication (MMC) research because infrastructures are an often invisible, yet crucial, part of the mobile practices studied within MMC research. The article concludes by theorizing about why mobile infrastructures are such a frequent target for conspiracy theories and argues that researchers should begin planning now for combatting the conspiracies that will almost inevitably arise when the next generation of mobile infrastructure gets linked to fears about public health.
Frith, J., Campbell, S., & Komen, L. (2022). Looking back to look forward: 5G/COVID-19 conspiracies and the long history of infrastructural fears. Mobile Media & Communication, 0(0). https://doi.org/10.1177/20501579221133950