rev. 26 March 2022

Critical Infrastructures Studies.org (CIstudies.org) is the site of an international community of scholars from many fields who are exploring how looking at the world through the concept of infrastructure—of things and systems made, built, shaped, crafted, interwoven, old, new, lived, loved, hated, sustained, or resisted—can make a difference.

How does thinking from the point of view of infrastructure help us ask new questions about the way we live in the world that thinking through the concepts of “text,” “culture,” or “media” (some of the main paradigms of intellectual history in the last century) cannot?

What are the intersections between science-engineering, social science, humanistic, and artistic understandings of infrastructure?

What is “critical” about infrastructure and the way we look at it? And how do infrastructures — including the most critical in the sense of “mission critical” or “can’t fail” (just one branch of critical infrastructure studies) — gaze back critically at us, our institutions, and our socio-technical systems? What do we look like from the point of view of infrastructure?

Moreover, to acknowledge a world far more expansive than just humans and their things, what is the place of all the other organisms and things in the natural, but increasingly built, environment — all the trickster coyote creatures, big and small, scampering in the contact zone between cities and wilderness?

Over the past few decades, “infrastructure studies” has arisen in the humanities and social sciences to address such issues. Important earlier approaches include “Large Technical Systems” analysis (influenced by the historian Thomas Hughes’s 1983 Networks of Power: Electrification in Western Society, 1880-1930) and ethnographic/information-science methods (influenced by Susan Leigh Star, Geoffrey Bowker, and their circle [e.g., Star and Ruhleder, and Edwards, et al.]). These approaches have  been joined by new approaches, including:

New and variant approaches are arising (see the CI Bibliography).  CIstudies.org is organizing researchers, projects, and activities from around the world to evolve critical infrastructure studies.

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