Internet in Public : An ethnographic account of the Internet in authoritarian Cuba
Abstract: The Internet’s democratizing potential is a hot topic in the study of authoritarian regimes. In the new decade, scholars and policy makers have applauded the benefits that online access to information and communication may bring. Despite these benefits, some protests against authoritarian regimes have failed because dictators utilized the Internet to repress insurgents, while other connected, yet authoritarian, states have not seen any popular uprisings. In this light, the implications of Cuba’s expanded Internet access are uncertain. To emphasize the ways that the Internet is used by the masses, this ethnographic study directs its attention to the unprecedented ways that Cubans go online. It finds that the Cuban telecommunications monopoly forces Cuban citizens to share both network and physical space, where prices, speed, and unavailable access points keep their Internet usage on a leash. Communication with exiled family and friends is prioritized for Cuban netizens who are unable to use the Internet as an integral part of their everyday lives. Because the regimes limits popular Internet usage to such an extent, more sophisticated Internet regulations that hinder anti-regime resistance are of minor importance in Cuba.
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