Paper presented at Indian Ocean Studies Conference 2021: Encounters at the Maritime Museum in Fremantle. The conference was organized by the Sheridan Insititue of Higher Education, Western Australian Museum and the Australian Association for Maritime History.
With undersea cables carrying most of the electronic data to/from Australia, this presentation offers a timely review of the connective potential of this communications infrastructure across the Indian Ocean. Recent major investments in Australia-Indonesia-Singapore subsea cables are contextualized within the 150-year history of cables carrying electronic communications across the Indian Ocean. Representations of the subsea cables laid between Banyuwangi, East Java, and Broome, Western Australia, in the late 19th century are examined and compared in a collaborative project conducted with Dr Irfan Wahyudi at Universitas Airlangga. The project identifies substantial differences in social imaginaries of the subsea network between the towns, but also identifies opportunities for reconnecting their creative communities and for building confidence in how they might contribute to the future of electronic communications. The project enables communities, researchers and industry to rethink the connective potential of communications infrastructure across the Indian Ocean.