Flying the skies to wire the seas: Subsea cables, remote work, and the social fabric of a media industry

Iago Bojczuk, Nicole Starosielski, Anne Pasek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since the commercial aviation boom in the 1960s and 70s, the subsea cable industry has relied on global air travel for network development, infrastructure maintenance, and market penetration. However, COVID-19 disruptions forced a shift to remote work, challenging traditional travel practices and presenting an opportunity for carbon emission reduction. This study investigates the industry’s response to the “new normal” and its implications for mobility and sustainability. We employ a media industries approach and conduct open-ended interviews with industry leaders to examine the potential balance between remote work benefits and essential in-person aspects, questioning whether the industry should return to pre-pandemic travel levels or embrace remote work’s ecological and financial benefits. Our findings indicate that remote work suitability varies depending on project stage, involved personnel, and the existing social fabric. To facilitate travel-related carbon footprint monitoring for cable consortiums, we developed a calculator to determine the industry’s emissions when adopting remote work. Our interdisciplinary study also emphasizes mobility’s intricate role in subsea cable systems and broader media infrastructure studies. By scrutinizing corporate cultures, communication practices, and transportation infrastructures, we enhance the scholarly comprehension of the social fabric underpinning global digital networks and investigate potential shifts toward a more sustainable media industry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)358-375
Number of pages18
JournalMedia, Culture and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2024


  • decarbonization
  • digital infrastructures
  • global air travel
  • globalization
  • media industries
  • mobility
  • remote work
  • subsea cable networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science


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