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Media in the fields : indigenous Mexicans, emergent technology, and community

Jimenez, Carlos
Degree Grantor:
University of California, Santa Barbara. Film and Media Studies
Degree Supervisor:
Cristina Venegas
Place of Publication:
[Santa Barbara, Calif.]
University of California, Santa Barbara
Creation Date:
Issued Date:
Communication, Multimedia communications, and Agriculture
Social Media
Mobile Phones
Automated Harvesters
Community Radio
Dissertations, Academic and Online resources
Ph.D.--University of California, Santa Barbara, 2016

This dissertation examines the role of media and communication technology in the everyday lives of Mexican immigrant farmworkers who live in Oxnard, California and are primarily indigenous Mexicans (Mixtec) from Oaxaca and Guerrero states in Mexico. Farmworkers have been perceived as passive media consumers, and have rarely been thought of as innovative or resourceful media users at the center of a new technological order. While many studies on farmworkers delve into the historical past of the UFW or to a dystopic farmworker future, this project examines the contemporary media practices of farmworkers in California.

Telephones, mobile phones, social media, radio, and automated harvesters are examined in this dissertation as media technologies that intensify connections, whether it is between people or between machines and agricultural produce. These media objects are a focal point for understanding two economies that are increasingly becoming entangled: the digital and agricultural. This dissertation seeks to unravel the relationship between these two economies by focusing on the way labor recruitment, democratic participation, social networks, and work in a farm labor community have evolved. The contingencies between the digital and agricultural economy are not pre-determined, but their outcome will define the future of how our food is grown and how we perceive labor and lives of farmworkers.

Immigrant farmworkers in the U.S. experience linguistic and geographic isolation when they first arrive and are one of poorest communities in the U.S. Living on the fringes of a host nation, these immigrant workers experience cultural loss, nostalgia, and inequality produced by their displacement. As a result, immigrants develop strategies and practices that adapt to, integrate, or challenge the expectations of the host culture. Media technologies are one of the primary tools immigrants use to strengthen or rekindle bonds to a distant homeland, or to navigate the host culture and develop a sense of belonging. This dissertation finds that given the precarious nature of their work, legal status, and migratory lives, farmworkers use media to find stability and opportunities for the development of expression, democratic behavior, and connectivity. The same conditions of their lives also make clear that access to and use of media technology is dependent on economic stability, organization, and community power that is vulnerable to shifts in the digital and agricultural economies.

By studying several media objects through ethnographic fieldwork carried out over a year and half, this dissertation draws connections between historical settlement patterns of farmworkers in California and the evolution of communication practices. Following the lives of farmworkers, the dissertation focuses on (1) the way a farm labor union and contractor have expanded their reach and redefined their public image via social media (Facebook); (2) the transition from using public telephones to mobile phones among Mixtec farmworkers in Oxnard; (3) the development and organization of an indigenous language community radio station (Radio Indigena); (4) and the relationship of automated harvesters to a speculative fantasy of a worker-less farm. The range of media examined documents not only how farmworkers produce, consume, and engage media within our networked society, but also how media technology reorganizes their labor and everyday life.

Physical Description:
1 online resource (336 pages)
UCSB electronic theses and dissertations
Catalog System Number:
Inc.icon only.dark In Copyright
Copyright Holder:
Carlos Jimenez
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