This series of meetings aims to enliven discussion about infrastructure from the perspective of Digital Humanities and Social Sciences, as a contribution to the emerging field of Critical Infrastructure Studies.
The growing body of literature on the concept of infrastructure — in science and technology studies, media studies, cultural studies, and DH — prompts questions about why infrastructure is essential for studying people’s practices, what kinds of subjects are embedded in infrastructural systems, and, in particular, how the world can be transformed through infrastructural interventions. A focus on infrastructure reveals the materiality of practices, as a set of conditions that are laid down by various actors: academic institutions, cultural units, technology companies, publishing houses, and governmental bodies. Surfacing the relationships between these heterogeneous entities can give us an insight into the manufacture of substrates that are not fixed, but relational objects. Infrastructure is an articulation of materiality that is constantly in formation across space and time, as Nikhil Anand et al. argued in The Promise of Infrastructure (2018). A thing is therefore in the process of becoming infrastructure and composed of socio-technical assemblages that emerge from tensions between institutional actors, policies, and knowledge practices. These tensions — expressed as a clash between functionality and sustainability, standardisation and resistance to universality, open and closed technologies — located in infrastructure make it a valuable object of critical inquiry. DH can contribute to debates about modern infrastructure by offering unique humanities-centred theoretical and practice-led analyses of infrastructure and possessing the capacity to unlock a range of technical, socio-cultural, and political perspectives