Author:Hanne Cecilie Geirbo (University of Oslo)
Paper short abstract:
Scholars have often attended to the morality of utility infrastructures as strategies of governance or as designers’ inscriptions and users’ description. This study discusses how moralities were configured ad-hoc by hacking as well as rhetorical, bureaucratic, and technical means in a solar pilot project.
Paper long abstract:
This paper is based on an ethnographic action research study of an emerging solar electricity infrastructure in a Bangladeshi village. Through participating in the planning, implementing, and restructuring of a solar mini-grid over four years, the author has explored how practitioners and residents have used morality as a resource in their efforts to shape the infrastructure according to their various, and sometimes conflicting, needs. The concept 'configuration' (as used by Lucy Suchman among others) is engaged to highlight the joining together of the imaginaries and materials that structure these efforts. During the course of the pilot project, residents have used hacking of the household electricity connections, in combination with appeals to moral values, to shape the electricity infrastructure according to their needs. Partly to obstruct hacking and partly to accommodate the residents' moral claims, the practitioners have in return used rhetorical means, such as allegories; bureaucratic means, such as algorithms for arbitration; and technical means, such as fuses, to configure other electricity moralities.
In STS and related fields, the morality of utility infrastructures has often been attended to as strategies of governance. Another focus has been designers' inscription of morality and users' de-scription of them (as used by Madeleine Akrich). This paper will contribute to this literature by discussing how morality can also be a resource that is utilized ad-hoc by practitioners as well as residents in efforts to shape an electricity infrastructure according to conflicting needs and desires.