Infrastructures in practice and in flux
Elizabeth Shove (Lancaster University)
Tim Schwanen (University of Oxford)
Matt Watson (University of Sheffield)
Nicola Spurling (Lancaster University)
Thursday 1 September, 9:00-10:45, 11:00-12:45, 12:30-14:15, 14:00-15:45 (UTC+0)

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