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

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Michael Power

The notion, technologies and organizational elaboration of traceability have become more prominent and more systematic in recent years in many different fields, notably…

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The notion, technologies and organizational elaboration of traceability have become more prominent and more systematic in recent years in many different fields, notably food. This chapter argues that traceability has many faces: it is a programmatic value embedded in norms and regulations; it is a frontier of technology development such as blockchain, and it is a continuous processual and political dynamic of organizational connectedness, leading also to resistance. These different aspects make up “traceability infrastructures,” which embody a number of tensions and dynamics. Three such dynamics are explored in this chapter: the tension between organizational entities and meta-entities, problems of agency and the distribution of responsibility, and dialectics of connectivity and disconnectivity. These three dynamics generate three testable propositions, which define a prolegomena for a new subject of “traceability studies.” Overall, traceability is argued to be an ongoing process of connecting discrete agencies – a process of “chainmaking” – and is formative of more or less stable forms of distributed agency and responsibility.

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Abstract

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

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Andrés Marroquín

Do business owners hold capitalist beliefs – relative to non-business owners? Using Latinobarómetro survey in Latin America, we find that business owners tend to see the…

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Do business owners hold capitalist beliefs – relative to non-business owners? Using Latinobarómetro survey in Latin America, we find that business owners tend to see the market economy as the only system by which a country can become developed. They also tend to give a lower rank to Fidel Castro, and tend to believe that sole private investment in sectors like hospitals and pensions are good for the country to develop as soon as possible. But, business owners do not see foreign capital as good in industries such as mining, electronics, household appliances, automobile, telecommunication services, and infrastructure. They also do not see foreign investment as beneficial for economic development of the country. In addition, they are less willing to adopt some new technologies.

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Anthropological Enquiries into Policy, Debt, Business, and Capitalism
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-83909-659-4

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Céline Cholez and Pascale Trompette

Over the past three decades, new off-grid electrification infrastructures – as micro-grids and other solar solutions – have moved from innovative initiatives, conducted by…

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Over the past three decades, new off-grid electrification infrastructures – as micro-grids and other solar solutions – have moved from innovative initiatives, conducted by NGOs and private stakeholders, to a credible model promoted by international organizations for electrification of rural areas in developing countries. Multiple conditions support their spread: major technological advances in the field of renewable energies (panels, batteries), intensive Chinese industrial production allowing lower prices, institutional reforms in Africa including these solutions in major national electrification programmes, and, finally, an opening to the private sector as a supposed guarantee of the projects’ viability. However, while the development of this market calls for significant investments, a vast set of calculations and a strong “micro-capitalist” doctrine, all involved in their design, experts admit that a large proportion of projects hardly survive or even fail.

This chapter investigates these failures by exploring the ecology of such infrastructures, designed for “the poor.” It discusses “thinking infrastructures” in terms of longevity by focusing on economic failures risks. The authors argue that the ecology of the infrastructure integrates various economic conversions and exchanges chains expected to participate in the infrastructure’s functioning. By following energy access solutions for rural Africa in sub-regions of Senegal and Madagascar, from their political and technical design to their ordinary life, the authors examine the tensions and contradictions embedded within the scripts of balance supposed to guarantee their success.

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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…

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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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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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Pierre-André Juven

Whereas many researchers have examined the way in which health institutions have been transformed through funding modalities, and particularly through prospective payment…

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Whereas many researchers have examined the way in which health institutions have been transformed through funding modalities, and particularly through prospective payment systems (PPS), few have investigated the architecture of these systems, that is, costs and cost variance. Focusing on the study of costs and on the production of hospital rates, this chapter shows that the French PPS, called “rate per activity” made possible what we call a policy of variance. For health policymakers, the aim was to make the different accounting figures between hospitals, and between ways of practising healthcare, visible, in order to reduce these variances. This policy was attended by uncertainty in the processes of quantification, which led to metrological controversies. As a consequence of the issues around the way of calculating costs, some accounts and calculations were redone. In this chapter, we consider the case of metrological controversy over the remuneration of costs for cystic fibrosis patients’ hospital stays, and over the action of a patient organization that criticized the costs calculated officially. It leads to the analysis of the way calculative infrastructures, as cost accounting and rates, are challenged, and how some actors try to stabilize them.

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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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