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Infrastructuration: On Habits, Norms and Routines as Elements of Infrastructure*

Thinking Infrastructures

ISBN: 978-1-78769-558-0, eISBN: 978-1-78769-557-3

Publication date: 7 August 2019


Many components of infrastructure are technological: pipes, asphalt, routers, buildings and other artifacts. Others are social: organizations, standards, laws, budgets or political arrangements. Finally, some components are individual human beings who contribute to infrastructure development and maintenance, or simply make use of it in their daily lives. Relationships among these elements often shift. One typical trajectory reduces the role of individual action (choices, skills and behavior) by replacing it with social mechanisms such as organizations, laws and standards, and/or technological elements such as sensors and software. Another trajectory, equally possible and sometimes desirable, moves in the other direction, replacing technological mechanisms with social ones and/or with individual choice and action. While both trajectories create “automatic” systems, in the second case the automaticity is embodied in people and/or organizational routines. All infrastructures require users to learn and adopt these behavioral regularities. Once rendered fully habitual or incorporated into widely diffused organizational routines, such regularities can be regarded as components of infrastructure. They play a key role in the phenomenon of invisibility or transparency in well-functioning infrastructures.

This chapter explores examples from several different nations that show how infrastructures depend on habits, norms and routines, and how the persistence of automaticity in social systems and individuals creates its own forms of path dependence and structural inertia. My title plays on Anthony Giddens’s notion of “structuration” to evoke the mutually constructive character of agency and structure.



Edwards, P.N. (2019), "Infrastructuration: On Habits, Norms and Routines as Elements of Infrastructure*", Kornberger, M., Bowker, G.C., Elyachar, J., Mennicken, A., Miller, P., Nucho, J.R. and Pollock, N. (Ed.) Thinking Infrastructures (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 62), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 355-366.



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