Date of Award

12-2013

Level of Access

Campus-Only Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Interdisciplinary Program

Advisor

Nathan Stormer

Second Committee Member

Kirsten Jacobson

Third Committee Member

Laura Lindenfeld

Abstract

Vinalhaven, Maine is a bucolic island community, a jewel of Penobscot Bay in central Maine. Gleaming waters and bobbing fishing boats greet the many visitors that flock to the island during Maine’s summers. During the off season, Vinalhaven has 1,200 inhabitants, while its ranks swell to roughly 5,000 at the peak of the summer tourist season. For a few months during the summer, locals and visitors alike live side-by-side in the community, paradoxically creating both a place of heightened insularity and a place of continual boundary permeations. As such, its public discourse fashions a community that is both fixed and in flux.

This dissertation explores the intersections of technology, space and place in Vinalhaven. It examines the utilization of technology and the ways that people talk (and do not talk) about technologies that shape experiences. The purpose of this exploration is to better understand the articulation of place in light of the tumultuous vicissitudes of technology. While one school of thought argues that as connectivity increases, the perceived differences between places begins to fade, other studies argue that increased connectivity results in the amplification of place specificity. And yet, still other scholars argue that the boundaries themselves are key elements of community identity (Douglas, 1966). This study explores a bounded community’s identity in relation to technologies given a population that is both fluid and fixed.

To undertake this analysis I proceed in five chapters. Chapter one provides an introduction to community of Vinalhaven and provides the theoretical foundations of my work. Chapter two offers insights into the history of land use management in the state of Maine and on Vinalhaven, offering a context for further analysis. Chapter three explores discourse surrounding the potential construction of a cell phone tower. Chapter four offers examines the community’s relationship with transportation technologies and the parallel discursive patterns that indicate that whether the technology in question is physical or non-physical, the primary concern is the movement of bodies. Chapter five offers a few concluding thoughts on the nexus of place, technology, and identity, as well as identifying opportunities for additional scholarship.

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