133. Overcoming Sociotechnical Imaginaries: infrastructural ideologies and materialities?

Maxigas, University of Amsterdam, Critical Infrastructure Lab; Niels ten Oever, University of Amsterdam, Critical Infrastructure Lab;

The concept of sociotechnical imaginaries is very popular in STS research, yet we suggest that has reached the limits of its explanatory powers. Sociotechnical imaginaries insufficiently account for power imbalances in the design, standardisation, production, and maintenance of infrastructures and their governing institutions. To overcome this problem, we invite contributions that foreground power and technological materiality, and do not solely, or mainly, take identities, opinions, and visions as a starting point for arguments. Technological materialities are not merely a reflection of aligned interests, expertises, or identities. Material affordances of technology can subvert the influence of actors. Such a process is not necessarily intentional, but can emerge in the use and maintenance of a technology. The concept of ideology can explain who exerts power, how such power is exerted and subverted, and what is at stake in social conflicts around material configurations. We build on Althusser and Humphrey in saying that ideology is not simply a linguistic phenomenon; it also appears in material structures, discourses, institutions, and practices. We want to further explore what this notion can do to explain how social conflicts are articulated through struggles over shaping materiality, often under the guise of a (co-)production process. We call for contributions from researchers who are interested in exploring conceptual frameworks that can better account for the role of materiality and power in the social conflicts around technological innovation, standardisation, deployment, and maintenance, including but not limited to renewed interest in ideology as a conceptual framework.

Contact: maxigas@criticalinfralab.net, niels@criticalinfralab.net

Keywords: Information, Computing and Media Technology, Method and Practice, Infrastructure, socio-technical imaginaries infrastructural ideologies

Published: 04/07/2023