My work focuses on the interconnections between digital and urban inequality and Internet infrastructure. Within this realm, I examine how communities build their own last-mile Internet infrastructure as a response to overlapping forms of marginalization, specifically looking at community wireless networks in Detroit, Michigan, and Tacoma, Washington. My doctoral dissertation (and ongoing research related to that project) focused on the work of the Detroit Community Technology Project and its Equitable Internet Initiative.
Built and maintained by coalitions of community organizations and neighborhood residents, these community networks function as intranets for local communication and as a way to broadcast a shared Internet connection as an alternative to private, individual subscriptions. I analyze these practices of local Internet provision not as an instance of community responsibilization under neoliberalism but as a survival program rooted in black and queer liberation movements, in order to trace the radical potential of community-scale infrastructure in the face of severe urban austerity.
Currently, I am partnering with the Tacoma Community Network to study how community nets can remain sustainable through periods of technology change and how locally-specific community engagement shapes broadband adoption. In conjunction with students, I am also analyzing how LiDAR data can be leveraged to improve line-of-sight analyses in order to aid community network planning and accelerate deployment.
publications from this work
- Slager, E. J. (2018). Infrastructures of survival: digital justice and black poetics in community Internet provision (Doctoral dissertation). University of Washington, Seattle, WA. (PDF)
My current work, particularly with its emphasis on urban knowledge politics, builds on prior research on narratives of urban decline. In a qualitative study of the paradoxical nature of "ruin tours" in the city of Detroit, I traced the emergence of ruin tourism in that city and examined tours discursive practices of making space, place, and community.
publications from this work
- Slager, E. J. (2020). Ruin tours: performing and consuming decay in Detroit. Urban Geography, 41(1), 124-142. (Pre-print PDF)
- Slager, E. J. (2013). Touring Detroit: Ruins, Representation, and Redevelopment (Master's thesis). University of Oregon, Eugene, OR. (PDF)
As a scholar-activist, I am committed to putting the skills and knowledge I have as a researcher to work to investigate questions that my activist and neighborhood communities find compelling or important, as an act of accountability to the non-academic communities in which I am embedded. I therefore work with various community organizations in Detroit and Seattle as a volunteer map-maker and data collector and analyst to help organize around issues of transportation justice, housing displacement and foreclosure, and government accountability. Some of these organizations include: