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Constructing information, infrastructure, and institutions: Poststructural *policy analysis, “education”, and the federal policy discourse of the universal service e-rate

, The University of Wisconsin - Madison, United States

The University of Wisconsin - Madison . Awarded


This dissertation argues that digitized and networked information transfer, globalization, and theoretical and methodological pluralism has ushered in a new “problematic of disconnect” in which previously standardized knowledges, practices, and disciplinary conventions may obscure other information about power and effecting desired social change. Constructing Information, Infrastructure, and Institutions suggests that poststructural theories and methods are useful for legal and policy analysis in this new problematic. It argues for their use, outlines some of their basic theoretical and methodological tenets, and then applies them to a case study of the construction of an institutional subject—the K–12 “institutional telecommunications user” in Section 254 “Universal Service” of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Using Foucault's poststructural historical analytic methods of archaeology, genealogy, and thresholds of discourse formation, NII policy discourse around the universal service issue is explored to detect the discursive construction of an institutional subject and describe its characteristics.

Education has always played an important role in the development and deployment of U.S. communications systems. By archaeologically and genealogically analyzing academic scholarship, historical and current federal policy reports and statements, legislative statutes, and hearings, a more robust picture of K–12 education's role and purpose in U.S. communications history emerges. This analysis also shows how law and policy contribute to discourse formation, individual and institutional subject construction, and, through these, particular hierarchies and lines of power.

Constructing Information, Infrastructure, and Institutions finds that NII policy discourse around universal service and the e-rate does construct an “institutional telecommunications user” subject space. In it, K–12 schools are attributed distinct gendered, raced, aged, classed, and technologized qualities and associations relative to other institutions. They are anthropomorphized, hierarchized and, often, degraded. These findings suggest that law and policy are constitutive in the construction of dominant and degraded institutional subjectivities which are typically not accounted for in traditional legal and policy analytic approaches. These findings also suggest that poststructural theory's tendency to focus on the “subject” as an individual, and not institutional, entity, should likely be revisited since these limits of theory and method—even newer theories and methods—themselves limit theoretical, methodological, and political action.


Arafeh, S.M. Constructing information, infrastructure, and institutions: Poststructural *policy analysis, “education”, and the federal policy discourse of the universal service e-rate. Ph.D. thesis, The University of Wisconsin - Madison. Retrieved September 16, 2021 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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