The infrastructure theorist Susan Leigh Star joked that those of us preoccupied with infrastructure constitute a “Society of People Interested in Boring Things.” Standards, systems, tubes, and wires — all of the prosaic linking apparatus that most people ignore — are in fact profoundly ideological and indisputably crucial. But how do we analyze something we don’t notice most of the time? How do we picture something so diffuse and slippery? Are other infrastructures and systems possible? How might we build them?
This course will investigate 1) how and why infrastructure reflects some of a society’s most basic ideas about how humans should relate to each other; and 2) what all of this has to do with professional practice in the information fields.
Martin H. Krieger, “System and Network, Node and Link,” in Urban Tomographies (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), 54-70.
Ingrid Burrington, “A Network of Fragments,” The Atlantic, December 8, 2015, https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/12/a-network-of-fragments/419469/.
Matt Parker, dir., “The Submarine Cable Network” (episode 3 of The People’s Cloud), 2017.
Susan Leigh Star, “The Ethnography of Infrastructure,” in Boundary Objects and Beyond, ed. Geoffrey C. Bowker et al. (MIT Press, 2016), http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/articleDetails.jsp?arnumber=7580150.
We won’t meet this week, but you do have some reading and viewing! Please give some thought to the following pieces.
Joe Lambert, Digital Storytelling: Capturing Lives, Creating Community, 4th ed. (New York: Routledge, 2013). Read pages 59–68, 97–102, and 105–116.
Nancy Kalow, Visual Storytelling: The Digital Video Documentary (Durham, N.C.: The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, 2011), https://documentarystudies.duke.edu/sites/documentarystudies.duke.edu/files/kalow_Vis%20Stor.pdf.
Videos that might suggest some approaches for this assignment:
- Cotton Road (selections), Laura Kissel
- “The Submarine Cable Network,” (part of The People’s Cloud), Matt Parker
- “Crossrail: Monetizing Time,” New York Times
- “How Poor Internet Access is Holding Rural America Back,” Mic
- “The Hidden Infrastructure of the Internet,” Ben Mendelsohn
- “Bundled, Buried, and Behind Closed Doors,” Ben Mendelsohn
- “When a Bridge Falls,” New York Times
- The Crumbling of America, Henry Schipper
- Liquid Assets (trailer), Penn State Public Broadcasting
And examples of student-produced digital storytelling:
- Noor Gill, “Ketchup” (assignment)
- Hanna Girma, “Kara Walker’s A Subtlety” (assignment)
- Megann Bispo, “The Ring of Power” (assignment)
- Stephanie Janetos, “Salvador Dali” (assignment)
- Gaby Chitwood, “Saint Germain des Pres” (assignment)
Bruce A. Block, The Visual Story: Creating the Visual Structure of Film, TV and Digital Media, 2nd ed (Amsterdam; Boston: Focal Press/Elsevier, 2008).
Susan Leigh Star and Karen Ruhleder, “Steps toward an Ecology of Infrastructure: Design and Access for Large Information Spaces,” in Boundary Objects and Beyond, ed. Geoffrey C. Bowker et al. (MIT Press, 2016), 377-415.
Shannon Mattern, “Library as Infrastructure,” Places Journal, June 9, 2014, https://doi.org/10.22269/140609.
Deb Verhoeven, “As Luck Would Have It: Serendipity and Solace in Digital Research Infrastructure,” Feminist Media Histories 2, no. 1 (January 1, 2016): 7–28, https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2016.2.1.7.
Clifford Siskin, “Prologue: ‘The Most Primitive Question,’” in System: The Shaping of Modern Knowledge, Infrastructures (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2016), 1–14.
Jean-François Blanchette, “A Material History of Bits,” Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology 62, no. 6 (June 1, 2011): 1042–57, https://doi.org/10.1002/asi.21542.
Nicole Starosielski, “Introduction: Against Flow,” in The Undersea Network (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015), 1–26.
Nicole Starosielski, Eric Loyer, and Shane Brennan, “Surfacing,” 2017, http://www.surfacing.in/.
Ingrid Burrington, “The Environmental Toll of a Netflix Binge,” The Atlantic, December 16, 2015, https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/12/there-are-no-clean-clouds/420744/.
R. E. Smith, “A Historical Overview of Computer Architecture,” Annals of the History of Computing 10, no. 4 (October 1988): 277–303, https://doi.org/10.1109/MAHC.1988.10039.
Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, “On Nonscalability: The Living World Is Not Amenable to Precision-Nested Scales,” Common Knowledge 18, no. 3 (September 21, 2012): 505–24, https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-1630424.
A.L. Russell, “Modularity: An Interdisciplinary History of an Ordering Concept,” Information & Culture, 47:3 (2012), 257-287.
Carliss Y. Baldwin and Kim B. Clark, “Managing in an Age of Modularity,” Harvard Business Review 75, no. 5 (1997): 84-93.
Tara McPherson, “U.S. Operating Systems at Mid-Century: The Intertwining of Race and UNIX,” in Race After the Internet (New York: Routledge, 2012), 21-37.
Miriam Posner, “See No Evil,” forthcoming in Logic (winter 2018).
Richard N. Langlois, “Modularity in Technology and Organization,” Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 49, no. 1 (2002): 19–37.
Susan Leigh Star, “Power, Technology and the Phenomenology of Conventions: On Being Allergic to Onions,” The Sociological Review 38, no. S1 (May 1, 1990): 26–56, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-954X.1990.tb03347.x.
Daniel Pargman and Jacob Palme, “ASCII Imperialism,” in Standards and Their Stories: How Quantifying, Classifying, and Formalizing Practices Shape Everyday Life, ed. Martha Lampland and Susan Leigh Star (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2009), 177–99.
Elvia Arroyo-Ramirez, “Invisible Defaults and Perceived Limitations: Processing the Juan Gelman Files” (Medium, October 30, 2016), https://medium.com/on-archivy/invisible-defaults-and-perceived-limitations-processing-the-juan-gelman-files-4187fdd36759.
Russell, Andrew L. Open Standards and the Digital Age: History, Ideology, and Networks. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
Maggie Shafer, “Unicode: A Story of Corruption, Connection, and Smiling Poo” (Medium, September 18, 2015), https://medium.com/@maggieshafer/unicode-a-story-of-corruption-connection-and-smiling-poo-598295e4af9d.
Joanne Nucho, Everyday Sectarianism in Urban Lebanon: Infrastructures, Public Services, and Power (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2017). Selections.
Brian Larkin, “Pirate Infrastructures,” in Structures of Participation in Digital Culture, ed. Joe Karaganis (New York: Social Science Research Council, 2007), 74–84.
Joanne Nucho, The Narrow Streets of Bourj Hammoud (video, 2016).
Simone, AbdouMaliq. “People as Infrastructure: Intersecting Fragments in Johannesburg.” Public Culture 16, no. 3 (2004): 407–429.
Larkin, Brian. Signal and Noise: Media, Infrastructure, and Urban Culture in Nigeria. Durham: Duke University Press, 2008.
Andrew Russell and Lee Vinsel, “Hail the Maintainers,” Aeon, April 7, 2016, https://aeon.co/essays/innovation-is-overvalued-maintenance-often-matters-more.
Stephen Graham and Nigel Thrift, “Out of Order: Understanding Repair and Maintenance,” Theory, Culture & Society 24, no. 3 (May 2007): 1–25, https://doi.org/10.1177/0263276407075954.
Artforum, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, 2016, https://vimeo.com/183072212. (Video.)
Nowviskie, Bethany, and Dot Porter. “Graceful Degradation Survey Findings: Managing Digital Humanities Projects Through Times of Transition and Decline?” Digital Humanities 2010 Conference Abstract, June 2010. http://dh2010.cch.kcl.ac.uk/academic-programme/abstracts/papers/html/ab-722.html.
David Harvey, “Freedom’s Just Another Word…,” in A Brief History of Neoliberalism (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 5–38.
Ellen Dannin and Lee Cokorinos, “Infrastructure Privatization in The New Millennium,” in The Oxford Handbook of State and Local Government Finance, ed. Robert D. Ebel and John E. Petersen (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2012).
Abrahm Lustgarten, “Liquid Assets,” ProPublica, February 8, 2016, https://www.propublica.org/article/can-wall-street-solve-the-water-crisis-in-the-west.
Jane Schmidt and Jordan Hale, “Little Free Libraries®,” Journal of Radical Librarianship 3 (April 19, 2017): 14–41.
Safiya Umoja Noble, Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism (New York, N.Y.: New York University Press, 2018). Read pages 1–109.
Julia Angwin et al., “Machine Bias,”ProPublica, May 23, 2016.
Optional: Some Breaking News
“Revealed: 50 million Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica in major data breach” (Guardian, March 17, 2018)
Wendy Jui Kyong Chun, “We’re all living in virtually gated communities and our real-life relationships are suffering” (Wired, April 13, 2017)