Establishing the Internet in Costa Rica: Co-optation and the Closure of Technological Controversies


Research in science and technology studies has devoted significant attention to technological controversies and the mechanisms that actors employ to resolve them. This paper contributes to this literature by developing the notion of co-optation as a dynamic of closure. Co-optation is conceptualized as the incorporation of an actor or group into the organizational structure of another group in order to avert threat or adapt to a context of change. Drawing on the history of the Internet in Costa Rica from 1990 to 2005, this study examines a controversy between two distinct models for the development of computing networks in this country: the academic, sociotechnical network and the state-sponsored, commercial project. The analysis shows that the dispute between these groups ended when the Costa Rican government co-opted leading figures of the academic network into its structure. The notion of co-optation helps us theorize shifts in the configuration of relations between groups that lead to the partial resolution of conflicts and have important consequences for the development of technological infrastructures.


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