Author:Katherine Lovell (University of Sussex)
Paper 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.
Paper 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 practice and in flux