Infrastructures in practice and in flux
Location 116
Date and Start Time 01 September, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 4


  • Elizabeth Shove (Lancaster University) email
  • Tim Schwanen (University of Oxford) email
  • Matt Watson (University of Sheffield) email
  • Nicola Spurling (Lancaster University) email

Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

This track builds on established STS traditions of infrastructural studies, but departs from them in emphasising infrastructures-in-use and in practice. We aim to explore dynamic relations between multiple infrastructures, appliances and resources at different spatial and temporal scales.

Long Abstract

There is a long tradition of infrastructural studies within STS. This track builds on this tradition but is distinctive in focusing on infrastructures-in-use, rather than in the making, and in its ambition to explore dynamic relations between multiple infrastructures, appliances and resources, and to do so at different spatial and temporal scales. The track addresses infrastructural dimensions of collectives, spaces and futures.

Key themes include:

Infrastructures in practice

STS has been preoccupied with 'the user' but what does it mean to 'use' an infrastructure? How are patterns of demand configured and governed? How do infrastructures feature in collective shifts in practice, needs and expectations? And what new concepts might be developed beyond 'the user'?

Infrastructures in flux

Concepts of obduracy are critical in understanding forms of sociotechnical persistence, but there is scope for developing analyses of how infrastructures are repaired, maintained, reappropriated and dismantled - for seeing stability, change and innovation as outcomes of dynamic sociotechnical processes, and for considering the consequences of these relations for resource consumption at different scales.

Infrastructural interfaces

How do systems of water, power or data connect to appliances, how is this interface configured politically (including divisions between state and market provision); what do intermediary devices (plugs, sockets, wires) reveal about the systems and practices they link? How do infrastructural boundaries shift (how do objects become infrastructuralised)? How do systems, for instance, of energy, water, refuse and transport constitute each other?

SESSIONS: 5/5/4/4

This track is closed to new paper proposals.


Experiments with elemental infrastructures

Author: Derek McCormack (Oxford University)  email

Short Abstract

Discussing the Google Loon project and ongoing efforts to develop carbon free air travel, this paper explores recent experiments with infrastructures in order to show how they draw together in novel ways three senses of the elemental: the physico-chemical, the meteorological, and the ontological.

Long Abstract

In what ways might we understand infrastructures as elemental? The points of departure for the paper are claims about the elemental and atmospheric qualities of media networks (e.g. Galloway and Thacker 2007; Hansen 2015). The paper builds upon this work by arguing that infrastructures can also be understood as elemental in two further senses. First, infrastructures can be understood as elemental in a physico-chemical sense insofar as they depend upon and are differentiated on the basis of the material properties of particular elements. Second, they are also elemental insofar as they work with the materiality and movement of the meteorological atmosphere. The claim developed here is that we are witnessing the emergence of experiments with infrastructures that try to draw together each of these senses of the elemental as part of efforts to develop new kinds of collectives in flux through engineering and crafting the relation between humans and non-humans in distinctive ways. I support this claim via two case studies. First, through a discussion of the Google Loon project, which involves the use of balloons as High Altitude Platforms for enhancing internet coverage, and second, through emerging experiments with carbon free air-travel. Both experiments, while still relatively small in scale, provide glimpses of the kinds of practices through which future elemental infrastructures might be piloted. At the same time, as the paper shows, these experiments point to potentially very different possibilities for elaborating an ethico-aesthetics and politics of such infrastructures.

Sociotechnical Infrastructure and Knowledge Production in Antarctica's U.S. Research Stations

Author: Luke Bohanon (UCLA)  email

Short Abstract

This work synthesizes a sociotechnical understanding of infrastructure with concepts such as Goffman’s “total institution” and Gieryn’s “truth-spot” to explicate the unique nature of knowledge production in U.S. research stations in Antarctica.

Long Abstract

Since the adoption of the Antarctic Treaty in 1961, Antarctica has become sacred ground for science. Thirty countries send personnel to 45 research stations and the continent itself is often characterized as a natural laboratory. Despite the critical, wide-ranging implications of the physical and life science research conducted at the stations, little system research has focused on the human inhabitants and the research stations themselves. These remote stations embody a unique, long-term combination of extreme weather, physical boundedness, and blurred boundaries among work, play, and sleep for the scientists and researchers as well as the technical and support workers who enable the daily functioning of the bases. This work synthesizes concepts from several disciplines, including information studies and sociology, in order to explicate the unique nature of Antarctic research stations as places of knowledge production. Foremost is the concept of "infrastructure"—embedded, invisible, complex systems of social, material, and technological interactions through which life and work function—but Goffman's "total institution" and Gieryn's "truth-spot" are also key concepts for understanding what makes Antarctic research stations fascinating and unique environments worthy of more attention. The framework developed around these ideas will be used in my dissertation which seeks to further scholarly understanding of the mutually constitutive nature of individuals, information practices, and infrastructures by examining knowledge workers in a bounded setting the blurs the lines amongst them.

'Pukka'/'kutcha': obduracy, infrastructure, and the Indian city

Author: Justin Pickard (University of Sussex)  email

Short Abstract

Drawing on ethnographic material from the presenter’s doctoral fieldwork in urban Gujarat, this paper explores the value and utility of ‘obduracy’ (Hommels, 2005) as a way of extending analyses of infrastructure beyond the Western, modernist ‘infrastructural ideal.’

Long Abstract

This paper deploys a set of ethnographically-derived figures (Haraway, 1997) that speak to the concept of 'obduracy' (Hommels, 2005) as a means of extending analyses of infrastructure beyond the Western, modernist 'infrastructural ideal.'

By bringing these figures into dialogue with Hommels' work on urban space, De Laet and Mol (2000) on 'fluid' technologies, and recent studies of postcolonial infrastructure (e.g. Trovalla and Trovalla, 2015), I make the case that existing theories of technology - such as those rooted in the traditions of SCOT, ANT, and Large Technical Systems (Hughes, 1987) - are insufficient to meet the contingencies, informalities, and contested attempts at closure that characterise infrastructure in the Indian city.

Instead, I contend that a 'thick description' (Geertz, 1973) of these various cross-cutting fluidities and obduracies is better placed to offer a granular account of the tasks and rhythms of everyday infrastructural practice, the micropolitics of the material and configurational specificities of individual systems, various typologies of interruption and failure, and the forms of user improvisation and jugaad innovation that respond to such.

What to rebuild? Updating and developing installed infrastructure

Author: Katherine Lovell (University of Sussex)  email

Short Abstract

Highlighting the importance of local conditions and a greater range of system-builders, including local operators and users, for performance and development of long-established infrastructure systems, this paper extends Hughes’s theory of infrastructure system change to examine mature systems.

Long Abstract

With maturity in infrastructure systems, the appearance of their being fixed can become more pronounced. However that very stability can also lead to their consideration by a bigger range of actors and therefore leads to the enactment of a wider range of understandings of the state/performance of an infrastructure system. The perceived usefulness or performance of an infrastructure system to users and local operators is, to a large extent, based upon the state of the local installed system and on its day to day performance that can be a function of local conditions and interactions as much as the available infrastructure technology.

In this paper Hughes's (1983; 1987) model of infrastructure system change is extended to consider mature infrastructure systems and local development activity. Due to long lifecycles and variations in local conditions and practice, installed system and state of the art system can become distant relations in long-established LTS. By considering differing lines of system performance (i.e. reverse salient configurations) and being open to different types of system-builders, this approach can cope with different facets of infrastructure performance and development and it seeks to examine their interaction.

A systematic examination of development activity across the UK railway system, using data generated from archive sources, not only shows different mechanisms of system change in action but it also reveals interactions between local and state of the art development. This framework provides the basis for improved understanding of interactions between different types of actors in infrastructure system continuity and change.

Infrastructures in use: fixity, flexibility and flux

Author: Elizabeth Shove (Lancaster University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper brings together concepts from social theories of practice, and from STS writing on infrastructures to develop and explore methods of analysing the temporal and spatial patterning of transport, energy and communications infrastructures in use.

Long Abstract

Infrastructures - road and rail networks, electricity grids, broadband and communications networks - are typically treated as 'fixed' assets but infrastructures-in-use reflect multiple temporal (diurnal, weekly, seasonal) and spatial (institution, neighbourhood, city, nation etc.) variations. This paper brings together concepts from social theories of practice, and from STS writing on infrastructuresto explore methods of analysing the temporal and spatial patterning of transport, energy and communications infrastructures in use.

I argue that the challenges of understanding and potentially modifying peak loads (for example, around 9am in terms of transport, or 5.30-8pm pm for domestic energy use in the UK) are in essence challenges of understanding relations between multiple complexes of social practice and the ways in which these act in concert, collectively shaping and being shaped by infrastructures, the resources that circulate through them, and related repertoires of devices and artefacts.

The observation that infrastructures enable many practices at once, and that many practices depend on the co-existence of several infrastructural systems (power, internet, etc.), points to the need for ideas and methods capable of distilling and representing forms of obduracy and change within and between multiply hybrid configurations. The paper draws on empirical projects from across the DEMAND (Dynamics of energy, mobility and demand) programme ( in providing concrete examples of fixity, flexibility and flux, and in illustrating techniques and types of data that enable us to 'see' how infrastructures figure in the preservation and transformation of spatial and temporal rhythms of practice.

Infrastructures of the office: the socio-technical construction of workspace.

Author: Noel Cass (Lancaster University)  email

Short Abstract

Office infrastructures interlock flow and storage networks (of data, electricity, gas, hot/cold water and air) that facilitate the smooth use of devices and appliances in spaces optimised for work. The paper explores the changing socio-technical construction of the normal, quality office in the UK.

Long Abstract

The office is a place where a number of infrastructures come together, hopefully seamlessly, to produce an environment for work. The structure of the building and rooms, the hidden flows of electricity, gas, heated and chilled water and air, and data, the storage of heat, coolth, and information, are infrastructures whose presence is taken for granted and written out of consciousness in the social construction of the office as a smooth and desirable space for working. This paper reports on research into office building design that revealed how certain levels of energy demand in particular are embedded into normal office occupation and use, are related to the interlocking and ratcheting up of norms and expectations of quality, comfort and convenience, and how incumbent regimes of infrastructural provision might be unsettled by the changing nature of the requirements and understandings of 'the quality office' and office work.

Bloody infrastructures!: Exploring the challenge of umbilical cord blood collection maintenance

Author: Ros Williams (University of Sheffield)  email

Short Abstract

This paper looks at umbilical cord blood banks, and argues that a Derridean archival lens instead of a ‘bank’ logic helps us to understand the infrastructural flux of maintaining such tissue collections in the context of changing clinical requirement and increasingly exacting scientific standards.

Long Abstract

The collection of umbilical cord blood (UCB), a source of stem cells for cancer treatment, has become a highly strategised process known as 'banking'. STS scholarship has explored the moral/economic tensions of such banks but less focus is given to their infrastructural operation. This paper aims to flesh out our understanding of how stem cell collections maintain usefulness whilst the requirements of clinicians using them change, and the standards that are utilised shift (as biological standards tend to do [Mackenzie et al 2013]).

The paper adopts an archival lens popularised by Jacques Derrida (1996), using qualitative data on the UK context. How might it help to think of these collections not as banks, but as archives? Attention is given to how archival maintenance relies on collection managers' alertness to the shifting standards of human tissue typing. I also explore archivists' attempts to make collections appeal to their 'users' - in this case, clinicians. How do archivists avoid lock-in, or path dependency when developing their infrastructures (Garud and Karnoe 2001, Rip 1995)? How do they contend with the risk of obsolescence faced by all archives (Bowker 2007)?

The paper demonstrates how an archival lens offers the heuristic richness that 'bank' thinking cannot provide to highlight important aspects of maintaining collections of biological material in the present, and sustaining them into the future. It thus provides a novel contribution to the STS literature on regenerative medicine and tissue banking and the growing interdisciplinary corpus on issues of infrastructural maintenance and flux.

The Self-Extending Internet? Wireless Infrastructures and Systems of Practice

Author: Janine Morley (Lancaster University)  email

Short Abstract

To understand the mechanisms by which the internet is growing this paper examines the ongoing development of Wi-Fi. It argues that, as part of the internet infrastructure, the roles of wireless connectivity flex and stabilise in relation to evolving systems of practice in which they are embedded.

Long Abstract

Changes in how the internet is organised and used impact other infrastructures, not least where and when electricity is used. Overall, the internet is consuming an increasing share of global electricity, as greater volumes of data are processed, stored and transported. This paper explores the basis of this growth and asks if increasing data-intensity reflects positive feedback mechanisms of the kind observed of other infrastructures (e.g. Urry, 2004). Are increasingly energy-intensive modes of reproduction becoming obdurate and irreversible?

The paper focuses on wireless infrastructures, specifically Wi-Fi, as significant to the extension of internet connectivity. In some senses, the emergence of Wi-Fi can be understood as a process of technological innovation which has transformed the incumbent socio-technical regime (Geels, 2002). However, the development of Wi-Fi is ongoing, as further extensions are made (trains, hospitals, appliances, speeds), as new wireless internet services and uses emerge, and as relationships with other infrastructures change.

An alternative is to conceptualise Wi-Fi as an 'infrastructure-in-use' (Shove, 2016) that both changes and stabilises in relation to a range of practices. To differentiate flux and obduracy of infrastructural arrangements, I develop an account which draws on ecological metaphors, as used elsewhere, to describe relationships: between things, practices, practices and things, systems and infrastructures. In combination, I ask whether ecological succession of the 'systems of practice' (Watson, 2012) in which wireless infrastructures are embedded is a fruitful concept for understanding patterns of co-emergence and path dependency.

Infrastructures in flux: Plug-in Health Care

Author: Marcello Aspria (Erasmus University Rotterdam)  email

Short Abstract

I borrow the concept of 'plug-ins' from my empirical observations in the development of a regional health portal to propose an alternative mode of theorizing integration processes in e-Health that combines a sociotechnical approach with insights from the figurational sociology of Norbert Elias.

Long Abstract

Between 2009 and 2012 I studied and actively contributed to the development of Zorgportaal Rijnmond (ZPR), a health portal for the Rotterdam Rijnmond Region in the Netherlands. My aim was to understand the human work required to 'integrate' infrastructures, standards, and users in a health portal in the making. I used 'infrastructural inversion' to make visible some of the hidden practices in integration processes in e-Health; while this yielded useful insights for developers, project leaders, and managers involved in ZPR, the interactionist character of my approach prevented me from grasping the complex interdependencies surrounding the project. Inspired by Bruno Latour (Reassembling the Social, 2005) I borrow the concept of 'plug-ins' from my empirical observations and 'spell out' its metaphorical meaning to propose an alternative mode of theorizing 'integration' in e-Health. In my paper I describe how infrastructural work in the ZPR project entailed ongoing network extensions (i.e., 'plug-ins') in continuously expanding networks of interdependency. In doing so, I combine my sociotechnical approach to e-Health with insights from the figurational sociology of Norbert Elias, who emphasized the importance of studying dynamic relations of human interdependency. I argue that the latter approach can be complementary to "the interdependence of technical networks and standards […] and the real work of politics and knowledge production" described by Geoff Bowker and Susan Leigh Star (Sorting Things Out, 1999), and reflect on the implications of this theoretical conflation for the study of digital information infrastructures in use.

Automobility in practice: road capacity, congestions and radio traffic reports

Author: Marith Dieker (Maastricht University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines radio traffic reports as medium for sustainable traffic management by reflecting on the interrelations between increased automobility, road network capacity, and developments in the presentation of radio traffic information in the Netherlands since the 1960s.

Long Abstract

With the rise of privatized automobility and the increase of highway traffic jams, new socio-technical systems have emerged that aim at traffic control. Since the 1960s, radio traffic information has been a key element in these systems. Through a qualitative analysis of historical radio broadcasts of the biggest Dutch national news station, this paper explores the relations between the format and content of traffic information updates, and the changing situation on the road in the Netherlands since the 1960s. This analysis indicates an oppositional dynamic: Whereas the traffic reports' presentation style and embedding change from formal announcements to more 'casually' reported updates that address the community of drivers through personalised interaction with the radio host, the reports' informative content shifts from locally coloured and personalized information to standardized data, aiming at facilitating drivers' effective appropriation of traffic updates. This has been considered important for creating sustainable traffic flows. In this paper I will illustrate how the rather formal and detailed-paternalistic narrative of the 1960s traffic reports has changed into the more informal, witty, yet flow-controlling discourse of the early 2000s. I will then explain how these two antagonistic dynamics in radio traffic reporting practices are co-shaped by changes in the broader fields of infrastructural developments, the socio-political paradigms of engineers and policy-makers, and the day-to-day reality of the users of the roads: the automobile drivers. This discussion, in turn, contributes to a better understanding of the relations between traffic reports and sustainable traffic infrastructures.

Co-production of the Bicycle City: Infrastructure and Cycling in Copenhagen

Author: Martin Emanuel (Uppsala University)  email

Short Abstract

This article treats the long-term historical co-production of cycling practice and cycling infrastructure in Copenhagen, and highlights in particular an important feature of infrastructure: its obduracy and capacity to preserve habits and cultures of the past.

Long Abstract

Politicians, planners and bicycle lobbyists around the world praise Copenhagen as a truly bicycle-friendly city. The Danish capital earned its reputation as a "bicycle city" early on. Recent lobby and planning initiatives are indeed progressive in comparison to many other cities and should not be underestimated as explanatory factors to the currently high levels of cycling. In this article, however, I argue that the foundation for the "bicycle renaissance" in Copenhagen since the mid-1970s was laid much earlier, and moreover, that it would not have come about without consistent pressure from cyclists and their representatives.

In the late nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century a network of bicycle paths and lanes was developed under the auspices of different actors: first organized bourgeois cyclists, and later municipal engineers and urban planners. In the post-WW2 period this network made cycling a more resilient practice in Copenhagen than in many other places. Even though cycling levels declined, the practice was never wiped out in the same way as elsewhere. While a vivid cycling culture produced materiality in the first place, that same materiality continued to sustain cycling and Copenhagen as a cycling city. The article thus highlights an important feature of infrastructure: its obduracy and capacity to preserve habits and cultures of the past.

Infrastructures and places within the city

Author: Torik Holmes (Lancaster University )  email

Short Abstract

This paper considers the development of two places within Manchester’s city centre and their relationship with the electrical infrastructure. The aim of the paper is to show how infrastructures are used in the constitution of different places and how local governance affects such constitutions.

Long Abstract

This paper considers the relationship between Manchester's electrical infrastructure and the constitution of distinctive places within the urban centre. Specifically, the paper discusses and compares the development of the Northern Quarter and the Central Business District, two locations within Manchester's city centre. Although these are close to each other, the practices of labour and forms of consumption they support are diverse. I will outline these differences and consider how electrical infrastructure is involved in the constitution of each place. This will be achieved by analysing a series of maps, showing contemporary land use. These maps will be accompanied by relevant figures detailing levels of electricity use. Additionally, city council development strategies will be considered, in an attempt to understand how Manchester's local authority seeks to affect the infrastructures and thus the production of each place. By detailing such differences, I will show how electrical infrastructure is used in the constitution of places: that is as distinctive areas within which correspondingly distinctive practices are performed and interact.

'Loungification' and The Boredom of Infrastructure

Author: Damian O'Doherty (University of Manchester)  email

Short Abstract

We know that airports are implicated in the making of multiple subject positions - passengers, security threats, and consumers - but less well known are the implications of 'loungification' as a new mode of infrastructural use.

Long Abstract

Like other infrastructures airports are routinely considered in terms of things like transport, speed, connectivity, flow, efficiency, and passionate 'attachments' to the excitement of international travel. Drawing on a 2½ year ethnography at Manchester Airport, this paper shows that far from Castells' ideal of flow, airport infrastructure is better conceived as an outcome of multiple modes of ordering. One recent mode of ordering is associated with what is called in this study the 'loungification of society' that suggests airports are better conceived as sites of boredom and standstill. We follow the actors and materials brought into being during the construction and management of an 'executive' departure lounge at Manchester Airport that reveals flux and incoherence brought about by antagonistic forces in management and organization. Here we uncover the possible emergence of boredom and unrest in new 'collective' spaces that are perhaps still only on the cusp of being realised. Hence, this loungification remains a future possibility, but it is a future that J G Ballard defined as that which might happen in next 5 minutes.

Infrastructure's allure

Author: Tim Schwanen (University of Oxford)  email

Short Abstract

Interventions in infrastructures are currently popular means for regulating mobilities. This paper analyses why this is so for people’s everyday mobility, locating infrastructure’s allure in the challenges of communicating experiences and understandings of comfort, convenience, speed and efficiency.

Long Abstract

The regulation of the mobilities of people, artefacts, molecules, capital, ideas, etc. is at the heart of contemporary biopolitical regimes but many of the means deployed for such regulation in the past, such as command-and-control and strongly paternalistic measures, are no longer seen as desirable in many places across liberal democracies. This partly explains why the (re)assembling of infrastructures has (re)emerged as a key strategy to govern mobilities. Wide-ranging coalitions of divergent interests have often come into being around interventions in infrastructure, even if this seemingly post-political, always fragile symbiosis is constantly at risk of turning into conflict and contestation.

Using the everyday urban mobility of people as case-study, this paper examines the allure of infrastructural interventions, particularly in light of fragility and sometimes outright unruliness of the creation, operation, functioning, maintenance and management of infrastructures. It draws together notions and insights from a range of disciplines including geography, STS, anthropology and philosophy and relies on empirical materials from research projects in cities in the UK, the Philippines and Brazil. It is argued that the allure of infrastructures for everyday urban mobility results from the ways in which they allow movement, representations and affects to become entangled in different ways for different alliances of interests. The challenges of communicating experiences and understandings of comfort, convenience, speed and efficiency and hence the interpretative flexibility of these terms are considered particularly important to the allure of infrastructural interventions into people's everyday mobility, not least because they enable the economisation of infrastructures.

The Peripheral Nerves of the Network of Power in Japan

Author: Hiroki Shin (Birkbeck College, University of London)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores the history of electric wires, meters and sockets in homes. In Japan, from the 1910s to 1950s, energy providers and users focused on this equipment in regarding legitimate electricity use. Using case studies, this paper traces changing practices and ideas of ‘proper’ energy use.

Long Abstract

In the history of electricity use, connective devices held a significant place for energy suppliers and users alike. When electric illumination was no longer the sole use of electricity, early electrical equipment became a constraint. Despite the expanding supply capacity from the 1920s onwards, upgrading household equipment lagged behind in accommodating the wider use of electricity. The majority of users had only one socket on the ceiling, which was intended for the electric lamp. The popular type of supply contract that allowed 'night only' electricity use also hindered the use of electricity beyond a few applications.

Users tried to get around the infrastructure constraints by connecting appliances to a single socket in turn, tinkering with the wiring to add more outlets or using multiple taps, though these methods were often against the supply contract. The situation deteriorated after WWII, when the power supply was under pressure. The utilities policed the users' 'illicit' practices with regular visits and patrols. Despite the companies' efforts, however, the Kanto region's electricity supplier discovered 135,000 cases of illicit electricity use in 1951. After introducing new meters, breakers and limiters, the utilities relaxed their attitude. This was not the end of the story, as the entry of an ever-greater variety of appliances continued to pose practical challenges to suppliers and users.

The history of connecting devices thus provides an alternative account of electrification. It also shows the co-evolution process of energy infrastructure at a point where supply and use met face to face.

Parking Space as Interface: rethinking histories and futures of automobility

Author: Nicola Spurling (Lancaster University)  email

Short Abstract

The paper conceptualises parking space/car parking as an interface of infrastructure and systems of practice. It argues parking space/car parking were critical elements in making car use what it is today. Retelling the history of automobility through parking space can help us think forwards too.

Long Abstract

Car parking provides a means to study infrastructure as part of a living system of practice. On the one hand, parking space is part of the infrastructure. It represents planners' anticipations of where destinations will be, and it forms the interfaces of the road network. On the other hand, parked cars are part of a living system of practice. They signify the places of social practices that have, in one way or another, become dependent upon the car.

This paper argues that parking spaces and car parking were critical elements in making car use what it is today. Drawing on archive research and current parking strategies in Stevenage New Town, England, the paper traces parking space as interface from 1950-1970 and in the present, showing how and why it changes. The analysis contributes to the theme's aim of exploring infrastructure-in-use, specifically it focusses on intersections of planning and living systems of practice. The account also contributes to existing positions within urban planning which focus on design solutions to the environmental and aesthetic consequences of 'paving paradise', sidelining the role that parking space plays in reproducing patterns of car use.

Finally, the paper argues that retelling the history of automobility as a history of parking space can help us to think forwards too. The final part of the paper considers current innovations in automobility including electric vehicles, uber and driverless cars, and their consequences for infrastructural interfaces (including parking space) in our homes and towns.

Circulation in relation to infrastructure: Keeping things cool in Southeast Asia

Authors: Jenny Rinkinen (Lancaster University)  email
Mattijs Smits (Wageningen University)  email

Short Abstract

Drawing on our study of social practices around refrigeration in urban Thailand and Vietnam, we explore dynamic relations between infrastructures and elements of practice. We discuss infrastructures as vectors for demand and use this idea to help explain increasing energy consumption in the home.

Long Abstract

Energy demand is escalating in the countries of Southeast Asia. The interlinkage between supply and demand appears to be self-reinforcing: high projections of future demand justify the building of new energy supply, and the increase in supply makes space for new demand. A lot of this new demand is expected to relate to keeping things - people, buildings and food - cool. It is possible to see this constitution of demand as an outcome of the global circulation of practices and their elements. While this helps explain how meanings and materials travel globally and are embedded locally, it leaves questions about the role of the infrastructure unanswered. Drawing on our study of changing social practices around refrigeration in Bangkok and Hanoi, we explore the dynamic relation between infrastructure and the circulating elements of practice. We show how the rising energy demand associated with refrigerating food depends on the interlinked dynamics of food supply, energy infrastructure, appliances and changing patterns of not only eating and cooking, but also of other social practices such as working and cleaning. Based on our findings, we discuss infrastructure as a vector for demand. By doing so, we contribute to theories of social practice, providing a more dynamic view of the relationships between objects and infrastructures. We conclude that infrastructures as vectors of demand helps unpack the creeping nature of dependence in energy related practices.

Material governmentalities of urban infrastructures: how matter matters for traffic regulations?

Author: Tauri Tuvikene (Tallinn University)  email

Short Abstract

Infrastructures are not only producing or lived but also governed, with the governing linked to the materiality of governed objects and subjects. The paper investigates the difference between regulating cars and walkers in urban infrastructures and makes a gesture towards material governmentality.

Long Abstract

This paper looks into the governing of urban infrastructures, focusing on transport infrastructures. It is argued here that while there is a need to pay attention not only the production-side of infrastructures but also to how they are 'lived' (Graham and McFarlane, 2015), we should additionally note the intersection between infrastructures and governing. The regulations concerning infrastructures—both the needs and tools for regulations—are in many ways entangled in to the materiality of infrastructures and infrastructure users. Regulations of cars and pedestrians—which are the infrastructure users discussed in this paper—are different due to the speed, physical size and movement potentials of the mobile subjects. Thus, it is cheaper to direct pedestrians rather than cars into tunnels and it is possible to interrupt traffic intersection crossing for pedestrians more than for cars as pedestrians can be easily stacked up on pedestrian islands. And yet, owing to the flexibility of human body, pedestrians can often refuse to follow such regulations by running red lights or avoiding tunnels. Thus, there are discrepancies between planned governing and practice, both in different ways entangled to the materiality of the governed subject. The paper draws on the finished doctoral research on material governmentality of post-socialist automobility and brings those conceptual developments together with a recently started post-doctoral project on governing urban walkscapes, which investigates the complexities of regulating pedestrian mobility in the city of Tallinn in Estonia.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.