Talking about infrastructures in all their glorious invisibility has to rely on examples. Whether we introduce infrastructures as large scale irrigation systems or as the building we live in, makes a huge difference. In this talk I imagine infrastructures as mundane and close to users, which poses the question of where infrastructures start and where they end. The point I want to make is that tools and technologies are actively transformed into infrastructures (degree of compliance to Leigh Star’s famous catalogue of characteristics) and that this activity is inherently political.
A call for working with the inherent tension between what makes infrastructures infrastructures and what makes laboratories special locales of knowledge production instead of resolving the tension prematurely.
Infrastructures are the invisible base on which all other structure is built. Like the roots of a tree their form does not predetermine how the tree looks like, which shape the leafs take and the color of the branches. Instead, there is a back and forth between the roots and the visible parts of the tree, as there is a mutual adaptation of all parts of the organism. However, knowing only abut the roots we can derive certain features of the tree, such as its size and probably more, if we are a biologist familiar with the movements of substances from the roots through the other parts of the tree.
As part of my work in the ZEN centre, I became interested in infrastructures as actant-rhizome ontologies. Cities and their neighbourhoods, the main study object there, are extraordinarily densely equipped with people and material structures, relying heavily on each other to function. Mainly inspired by the writing of Susan Leigh Star and her colleagues, these ‘boring’ things are a perfect match with my long-standing interest in the everyday of modern societies, how it changes and how it remains the same.
A talk in Norwegian about why it is so difficult to change infrastructures. Their invisibility, embeddedness, links with conventions of practice, etc. (Star and Ruhleder, 1996) make them the hard case of sustainable innovation. I conclude with four contemporary options for change:
Continuation of market-based infrastructure development Return to technocratic development a la Robert Moses (and still alive and kicking in India and China) Populistic infrastructure development: “More roads for everyone!
A general introduction into STS-research on the build environment seen from Trondheim.