Accepted Paper:

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


Luke Bohanon (UCLA)

Paper 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.

Paper 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.

Panel T006
Infrastructures in practice and in flux