The Challenge of Scaling: How Infrastructure is Lived

Lecture by Asher Boersma (Locating Media, Siegen University) ASCA Cities seminar Repairing Infrastructures, Thursday 14 March, 15:00-17:00 hrs., P.C. Hoofthuis (Spuistraat 134), Room 1.05.

Asher Boersma specialises in the history and practice of mediated control. His work connects media studies with historical anthropology, science and technology studies, workplace studies and sociology at large. In this lecture, he explores how West-European inland navigation infrastructure can be grasped synchronically, as a whole. A multisided ethnography of those who do the infrastructuring (Star 1999) revealed the isolation of key actors, like control room operators and skippers, while mobility also demands integration into larger sociomaterial constellations. How do they manage this situation, how do they gain overview? According to Latour and Hermant isolation is a prerequisite, as overview is found when one refrains from looking outside and instead focusses on sheets and screens, on the “view from nowhere,” which is the view from an “oligopticon,” from a “small whole” (Latour/Hermant 2006: 32, 45). Given that the mediated vision of steering huts increasingly resembles that of control rooms (Boersma 2018), we would only have to go to these places, zoom in and study technology in action (Heath/Luff 2004). Yet the actors living these infrastructures are constantly scaling, they oscillate between the micro (body, waterscape, fog), the meso (journey, traffic, water level) and the macro (market, network, climate). They do this from particular, embodied positions, as their ships are on the move and their control rooms are located at critical intersections. They prefer being able to look outside.

No registration necessary for this event, but please feel free to contact one of the organisers to gain access to the preparatory reading (Kasia Mika:, Jeff Diamanti:, Carolyn Birdsall:, or Simone Kalkman: