The launch of the Geostationary Defense and Strategic Communications Satellite (SGDC-1) in 2017 materialized the Brazilian government’s long-standing political desire to achieve national strategic communications. Representing one of the most expensive investments in the space and telecommunication sectors in 21st-century Brazil, the SGDC- 1 emerged in the public discourse not only as a high-capital and sophisticated artifact capable of fostering national pride but also as a savior of broadband Internet connectivity for Brazil’s rural and remote schools. This thesis critically examines media cartographies and discourses surrounding the SGDC-1 and points out how Brazil’s strategic agendas and modernization campaigns were channeled into connectivity initiatives in rural schools. By offering a humanistic approach to untangle the complex systems that enable the SGDC-1’s operations throughout Brazil’s territory, I unravel major points of contention in the conceptualization of rural schools as “dark spots of information” in government discourses. I then proceed to explore the government’s use of the televisual as part of its strategy to frame what I call a “space-telecom propaganda.” Drawing upon materials including government reports, popular press articles, datasets, court hearings, televisual texts, and satellite footprint maps, I demonstrate how the SGDC-1 functions not only as a high-technological artifact but also as a political tool interwoven with the government’s efforts to shape how citizens engage with notions of the “global village” and “digital divide.” Through a critical media studies approach, I describe how the satellite’s sociotechnical relations reveal what remains largely obscure to Brazilian publics. From questions pertinent to militarization, governance, and public-private partnerships to issues of longterm strategies, sustainability, and potential infrastructural disruptions, I argue these issues deserve public scrutiny as the SGDC project might be at stake in the foreseeable future given the current political conditions. To mitigate those potential shortcomings, I suggest the creation of a National Internet Satellite Plan to undertake some of these questions and orient future policy frameworks that may rely on the SGDC’s constellation for broadband-enabled inclusion, national integration, community development, and socioeconomic progress.
About Iago Bojczuk
Iago Bojczuk is a journalist and global media researcher from Brazil. His research deals with the global flow of media cultures and technologies and their creative appropriations by underserved communities in the Global South. Iago earned a Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies from the University of Oregon, where he graduated cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. His honors thesis addressed the relations between young Brazilian’s use of Internet memes and their engagement with the public discourse during the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff.
With interdisciplinary interests, Iago's experiences span from technology to human rights and from education to youth activism. As an undergraduate student, he served as a delegate during the 3rd UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan. As a youth delegate, he also engaged with various global leadership programs in the United States, Brazil, and Jordan. In 2017, Iago was appointed as an Oxford Consortium Human Rights Fellow and completed a seminar at the University of Oxford.
At MIT, Iago works as a research assistant at Global Media Technologies & Cultures Lab with Dr. Lisa Parks, with whom he recently co-led with other CMS graduate students a J-WEL funded workshop titled SITS (Social IT Solutions) for Computer Science students at the Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology (DIT) in Tanzania, East Africa. He is also the recipient of the prestigious Jorge Paulo Lemann Fellowship, whose goal is to support graduate students dedicated to creating social impact in Brazil. Apart from academia, Iago enjoys spending time exploring new cultures, learning about art, and listening to Brazilian music.