Interrogating Global Traces of Infrastructure



Interrogating Global Traces of Infrastructure November 18, 2021

(Registration is open now on EventBrite. Get a ticket.)
Geosyncronos satellite orbit (animated gif) by Talifero on Wikimedia Commons Ship photo by Cameron Venti on Unsplash

This series of meetings aims to enliven discussion about infrastructure in the Digital Humanities and Social Sciences as a contribution to the emerging field of Critical Infrastructure Studies. (See workshop series page.) The second workshop in the series brings together leading thinkers in Digital Humanities, Social Sciences, Digital Media, and Information Studies to discuss practices of interrogating global topographies of knowledge, data, and IT infrastructures and their influence on local social, economic, and research conditions.

The workshop will take place on the Microsoft Teams platform. (How to join a Teams meeting.) Registration for this event is open on Eventbrite (Get a ticket!). If you have any questions about the event, please don’t hesitate to contact the CIS collective: .

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The first workshop in June 2021 explored the fragility and faultiness of infrastructures that require scholarly intervention at individual, social, and planetary scales. However, interventions at local levels require an awareness of the relationship of infrastructure to global political and economic dynamics. A good example is Google’s plan to build a new underwater cable between the U.S. and Argentina to augment the company’s existing cable investments in the region and call it the Firmina cable (named after Brazilian abolitionist and author Maria Firmina dos Reis). Every day brings new reminders about how we are all part of a larger political and economic infrastructural system. The Covid-19 pandemic has explicitly shown how the concepts of globality and locality are two sides of the same coin. It recalls the famous words by Susan Leigh Star that “One person’s infrastructure is another’s topic or difficulty.”

In this second workshop, we seek to discuss the global dimensions of infrastructure – scale, flow, accessibility, durability, and transparency – and their impact on localized socio-technical practices. This complex topic touches on many aspects of Critical Infrastructure Studies as a practice, including platformization, global supply chains, public infrastructures, distributed labor, automatization, cloud computing, environment, and the politics of archives. These pressing issues are nontrivial methodologically. Some of the difficulties of studying infrastructure from a global perspective are suggested by the following questions: How can we reveal the global traces of infrastructures in our daily work? How can local case studies be scaled up? What does it mean to study infrastructures at a distance? What is the best practice to obtain and process large quantities of data? How can we identify the “infrastructural endpoints” – the geographical, social, and economic points of disintegration of the global socio-technical system? And, perhaps most important: How can we contest something that happens at a global scale? What can scholars as individuals do to interrogate and envision better global infrastructures?

Agenda


18 November, Thursday  (all times London time,  UTC/GMT +1 hour)

 

17.00 – 17.10
Introduction by Urszula Pawlicka-Deger, King’s College London, UK

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17.10 – 18.10
Panel discussion: Geoffrey C. Bowker (University of California, Irvine, US), Paul N. Edwards (Stanford University, US), Jennifer Gabrys (University of Cambridge, UK), Noortje Marres (University of Warwick, UK) — (chair: Jonathan Gray)

18.10 – 18.15
Break

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18.15 – 19.20
Session I (chair: James Smithies)

  • Miriam Posner, University of California, Los Angeles, US – “Breakpoints and Black Boxes: Understanding Supply-Chain Infrastructure”
  • Anne Helmond, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands – “Platformization: The role of business partners in infrastructure building”
  • Ned Rossiter, Western Sydney University, Australia – “Automating Geopolitics: Standardizing Technical Knowledge in Warehousing Industries”

19.20 – 19.25
Break

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19.25 – 20.10
Session II (chair: Urszula Pawlicka-Deger)

  • Shatha Mubaideen, Council for British Research in the Levant, UK – “MaDiH: Mapping Digital Cultural Heritage in Jordan”
  • Ian Milligan, University of Waterloo, Canada – “Building Sustainable Web Archive Analysis Infrastructure: The Archives Unleashed Project”

20.10 – 20.15
Conclusion

 


The workshop is part of the MSCA project that has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 891155.