Interrogating Global Traces of Infrastructure

I’m pleased to announce the second workshop in the Digital Humanities & Critical Infrastructure Studies Workshop Series, “Interrogating Global Traces of Infrastructure”. The event is organised by King’s Digital Lab, King’s College Department of Digital Humanities, and Critical Infrastructures Studies Initiative (cistudies.org). The workshop 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 meeting will take place on 18 November 2021 on the Microsoft Teams platform. Please register now through the Eventbrite.

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 platformisation, 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?

This workshop is part of my MSCA research project and I’m excited to be the lead organiser of this event. We have a wonderful line-up of speakers! Please check the full program on CIStudies.org and my research website dhinfra.org.

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