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Thinking Infrastructures
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78769-558-0

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Ingrid Erickson and Steven Sawyer

This chapter advances an articulation of the contemporary knowledge worker as an infrastructural bricoleur. The practical and pragmatic intelligence of the contemporary…

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This chapter advances an articulation of the contemporary knowledge worker as an infrastructural bricoleur. The practical and pragmatic intelligence of the contemporary knowledge worker, particularly those involved in project-based work, reflects an ability to build adaptable practices and routines, and to develop a set of working arrangements that is creative and event-laden. Like Ciborra’s octopi, workers augment infrastructures by drawing on certain forms of oblique, twisted, flexible, circular, polymorphic and ambiguous thinking until an accommodation can be found. These workers understand the non-linearity of work and working, and are artful in their pursuits around, through and beyond infrastructural givens. Modern knowledge work, then, when looked at through the lens of infrastructure and bricolage, is less a story of failure to understand, a limitation in training or the shortcomings of a system, but instead is more a mirror of the contemporary realities of today’s knowledge work drift as reflected in individuals’ sociotechnical practices.

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Thinking Infrastructures
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78769-558-0

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Jacob Reilley and Tobias Scheytt

This study sets out to shed light on those infrastructures underlying the ubiquitous, yet contested nature of governing by numbers. Investigating the 30-year long…

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This study sets out to shed light on those infrastructures underlying the ubiquitous, yet contested nature of governing by numbers. Investigating the 30-year long emergence of Germany’s “external quality assurance system” for hospitals, the authors show how methods for quantifying quality align with broader institutional and ideational shifts to form a calculative infrastructure for governance. Our study focuses on three phases of infrastructural development wherein methods for calculating quality, institutions for coordinating data and reform ideals converge with one another. The authors argue that the succession of these phases represents a gradual layering process, whereby old ways of enacting quality governance are not replaced, but augmented by new sets of calculative practices, institutions and ideas. Thinking about infrastructures as multi-layered complexes allows us to explore how they construct possibilities for control, remain stable over time and transform the fields in which they are embedded. Rather than governance being enacted according to a singular goal or value, we see an infrastructure that is flexible enough to support multiple modalities of control, including selective intervention, quality-based competition and automatized budgeting. Infrastructural change, instead of revolving around crises in measurement, is shaped by incubation periods – times of relative calm when political actors, medical practitioners, mathematicians, and many others explore and reflect past experiences, rather than follow erratic reforms fads. Finally, analysing infrastructures as multi-layered constructs underlines how they produce multiple images of care quality, which not only shift existing power relations, but also change the ways we understand and make sense of public services.

Details

Thinking Infrastructures
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78769-558-0

Keywords

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Hans Kjellberg, Johan Hagberg and Franck Cochoy

This chapter explores the concept of market infrastructure, which is tentatively defined as a materially heterogeneous arrangement that silently supports and structures…

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This chapter explores the concept of market infrastructure, which is tentatively defined as a materially heterogeneous arrangement that silently supports and structures the consummation of market exchanges. Specifically, the authors investigate the enactment of market infrastructure in the US grocery retail sector by exploring how barcodes and related devices contributed to modify its market infrastructure during the period 1967–2010. Combining this empirical case with insights from previous research, the authors propose that market infrastructures are relational, available for use, modular, actively maintained, interdependent, commercial, emergent and political. The authors argue that this conception of market infrastructure provides a powerful tool for unveiling the complex agencements and engineering efforts that underpin seemingly superficial, individual and isolated market exchanges.

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François Lambotte

The digital and material traceability of our interactions in organizations are nowadays the subject of very advanced analyses through tools known as social media analytics…

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The digital and material traceability of our interactions in organizations are nowadays the subject of very advanced analyses through tools known as social media analytics (SMA). As thinking (infrastructure), SMA tools constitute objects to think of our digitally mediated interactions with. It produces a substratum (a new meaning) that would not exist otherwise, and enacts different types of reasoning that hypothetically influence community managers’ or members’ sensemaking of digitally mediated interactions. This chapter proposes to look behind the curtain of charts and graphs, in order to highlight the performativity of the interactions between the different machines and the traces of our digitally mediated interactions. Drawing on a detailed analysis of the fabric of SMA, this chapter highlights the explanatory power of a communication perspective on types of reasoning enacted by thinking infrastructures. First, considering the SMA tool as an editorial enunciation allows us to see it as a process implying several beings (e.g. machines, humans and logs) that are not without consequences. Second, we show that these beings have different modalities of interactions with each other, and that these modalities of interactions influence the materiality of the digital traces of past interactions. Third, throughout the process, we demonstrate the fragility and variability of their materiality. Finally, faced with the rise of a technological deterministic discourse, which tends to portray the exploitation of our digital traces as an objective way of representing the collaborative practices that make up the organization, our research aims, on the contrary, to demonstrate their relativity.

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Antonios Kaniadakis and Amany Elbanna

In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, transparency became a rhetorical token used to provide a solution to financial problems. This study examines how…

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In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, transparency became a rhetorical token used to provide a solution to financial problems. This study examines how transparency materialized in the context of the European securitization industry, which was largely blamed for the credit crunch. The authors show that although transparency was broadly associated with a political call for financial system reform, in the European securitization industry it provided the basis on which to repurpose its market infrastructure. The authors introduce the concept of transparency work to show that transparency is a market achievement organized as a standardization network of heterogeneous actors aiming at establishing a new calculative infrastructure for managing credit risk. Combining insights from information infrastructure research and Economic Sociology, the authors contribute to a distributed and networked understanding of information infrastructure development.

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Andreas Folkers

The chapter analyses the role of smart grid technology in the German energy transition. Information technologies promise to help integrate volatile renewable energies…

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The chapter analyses the role of smart grid technology in the German energy transition. Information technologies promise to help integrate volatile renewable energies (wind and solar power) into the grid. Yet, the promise of intelligent infrastructures does not only extend to technological infrastructures, but also to market infrastructures. Smart grid technologies underpin and foster the design of a “smart” electricity market, where dispersed energy prosumers can adapt, in real time, to fluctuating price signals that register changes in electricity generation. This could neutralize fluctuations resulting from the increased share of renewables. To critically “think” the promise of smart infrastructure, it is not enough to just focus on digital devices. Rather, it becomes necessary to scrutinize economic assumptions about the “intelligence” of markets and the technopolitics of electricity market design. This chapter will first show the historical trajectory of the technopolitical promise of renewable energy as not only a more sustainable, but also a more democratic alternative to fossil and nuclear power, by looking at the affinities between market liberal and ecological critiques of centralized fossil and nuclear based energy systems. It will then elucidate the co-construction of smart grids and smart markets in the governmental plans for an “electricity market 2.0.” Finally, the chapter will show how smart grid and smart metering technology fosters new forms of economic agency like the domo oeconomicus. Such an economic formatting of smart grid technology, however, forecloses other ecologically prudent and politically progressive ways of constructing and engaging with intelligent infrastructures.

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Paul N. Edwards

Many components of infrastructure are technological: pipes, asphalt, routers, buildings and other artifacts. Others are social: organizations, standards, laws, budgets or…

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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.

Details

Thinking Infrastructures
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78769-558-0

Keywords

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Book part

Afshin Mehrpouya and Rita Samiolo

Through the example of a “regulatory ranking” – an index produced with the aim to regulate the pharmaceutical market by pushing companies in the direction of providing…

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Through the example of a “regulatory ranking” – an index produced with the aim to regulate the pharmaceutical market by pushing companies in the direction of providing greater access to medicine in developing countries – this chapter focuses on indexing and ranking as infrastructural processes which inscribe global problem spaces as unfolding actionable territories for market intervention. It foregrounds the “Indexal thinking” which structures and informs regulatory rankings – their aspiration to align the interests of different stakeholders and to entice competition among the ranked companies. The authors detail the infrastructural work through which such ambitions are enacted, detailing processes of infrastructural layering/collage and patchwork through which analysts naturalize/denaturalize various contested categories in the ranking’s territory. They reflect on the consequences of such attempts at reconfiguring global topologies for the problems these governance initiatives seek to address.

Details

Thinking Infrastructures
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78769-558-0

Keywords

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Yuval Millo, Nikiforos S. Panourgias and Markos Zachariadis

The authors analyse the development and implementation of the standard for the Legal Entity Identifier as a case of creating information-based assets through the…

Abstract

The authors analyse the development and implementation of the standard for the Legal Entity Identifier as a case of creating information-based assets through the establishment of an infrastructure that certifies the accuracy and validity of identity data. The authors term this process capitalization by certification. The findings describe a process whereby an identification infrastructure – including a non-replicable methodology for assessing data quality – is established that contributes to making the developer and controller of that methodology, an irreplaceable intermediary for users of the infrastructure; this in spite of the need for an associated reference data infrastructure to be open and widely accessible to all participants for the infrastructure to be successful. The findings indicate that in the process, assets are created on the basis of openly accessible data through certifying of a desired set of qualities to be achieved by adopters and the infrastructure. This, in turn, provides a starting point toward better understanding and theorizing of wider processes of data capitalization, encountered throughout the digital economy but which are also crucial to establishing information infrastructures that support cognitive action.

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