I defended my dissertation on June 30 in a BlueJeans video conference. While not quite the defense and celebration I had envisioned for this, I’m glad that it’s finished (for now). The dissertation was titled Rural Transformation in the 21st Century: Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and High-Tech Economies in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. My Co-Chairs were Silvia Lindtner and Tiffany Veinot, and my committee members were Tawanna Dillahunt, Mary Gray, and Christian Sandvig.
The dissertation was an ethnographic investigation into the promises of high-tech innovation and entrepreneurship for the economic development practices of a rural region. I identify and draw out a paradox where rural communities are constructed as geographic deficits that are ripe for outside intervention, while simultaneously being advertised as unique spaces for technological innovation. Through this, I document three processes of economization to demonstrate how rural communities in the Keweenaw Peninsula were made as places for technological opportunity and intervention. I argue that this making of the region falls in line with normative narratives of economic growth that are often at odds with the economic and technological realities of rural places that have radically different needs and approaches to community formation and solidarity.