I’ve been looking in several traditions and fields, some that are recurring are infrastructure studies, software studies, media studies, data studies (as well as the prefix ‘critical’ so several of them). I wanted to have a brief, and probably superficial look at what they are about and how I can demarcate them from one another. I assume that all of them are interdisciplinary, possibly complicating this endeavour 😀 But let’s give it a try:
Infrastructure studies, emerging from Science and Technology studies and information sciences, focuses on analyzing large and essential sociotechnical systems. The analysis can entail telecommunication networks, power grids and possibly sewer systems, but also digital infrastructure. Overall infrastructure studies explore widely accessible and shared systems and services that are often provided by governments in the public interest. According to (Plantin et al., 2018) infrastructure studies developed along 2 lines; the first focuses on a historical perspective of large systems while the second highlights the sociology of infrastructure, also highlighting human elements such as work practices, habits, organizational culture etc. Hence, Infrastructure Studies simultaneously addresses the technical, social, and organizational aspects of the development, usage, and maintenance of infrastructures in local communities as well as global arenas. Further, this second line of thought often associated with Star and Bowker has highlighted key features of infrastructure such as ubiquity, reliability, invisibility, gateways, breakdown as well as infrastructure as learned in communities of practice.
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