Accepted Paper:

A Step towards Infrastructural Esthetics  


Masato Fukushima (The University of Tokyo)

Paper short abstract:

The pioneering works on infrastructure in STS have adopted the relational definition of it, failing in addressing such issues as politics of visibility in terms of urban landscape. This presentation reexamines the role of esthetic visibility as the legitimate part of the infrastructural dynamics.

Paper long abstract:

The pioneering works on infrastructure in STS have adopted the somewhat relational definition of it (Star& Ruhleder, 1996; Star & Bowker, 2002) reminding us of that of picture/background distinction in Gestalt psychology. This relational view overly tilted to subjectivity, however, poses problem when its physical visibility matters in terms of, say, urban landscape. The tajectory of infrastructure hinges upon the contradictory values assigned to it (value oscillation) (Fukushima, forthcoming), but the dynamics of its aesthetic aspect has not been given sufficient attention, which involves both the politics of invisibility and strategic mobilization of estheticizing what is visible.

By taking up the recent controversies on the national beautification campaign targeted on the forest of utility poles and exposed electric wires in Japan's urban landscape, this presentation claims the need for the renewed attention to the issue of visibility in the present study of infrastructure to shed light on its dynamics of esthetization as the major issue of controversy on the urban landscape. Beyond the conventional image of its life cycle from the birth to maintenance/ repair to its decay, this analysis of its esthetic side is expected to shed light on the more complex dynamic of socio-technical system where esthetics is the missing link of combining various factors so far not spotlighted.

Panel T012
The Event of the Public: Convolutions of Aesthetic and Epistemic Practice