161. Social Infrastructure - Beyond the Soft-Hard Distinction

Edmund Konroyd-Bolden, York U;

Social Infrastructure is the supposed substrate where individuals do community in terms of various economic, social, and cultural activity. Though, even this basic premise deserves interrogation in light of systemic weakening and disinvestment of public institutions, such as healthcare and education. The Soft-Hard distinction of infrastructure may provide a further entry point for discourse but lacks explicative power for its study. How could this once purely economic concept have such power, when there are such complex, dynamic interactions of force, practice, and institutions around modern infrastructure, like: political influences throughout design and management practice, corporatization of the public sector, and applications of technology with clear social bias or cultural blind spots? A popular STS infrastructure study posits a correlation between failure of material infrastructure and its recognition by users. What does a failure to recognize or respond to failure, be it apparent, emergent, or imminent, then suggest? Does failure-recognition hold for Social Infrastructure, hard or soft, via land, sea, or atmosphere? Ruth Wilson Gilmore has another way to think infrastructure: as something of a battlefield with necropolitical significance. The socio-material terrain of infrastructure as such a battlefield seems to promise only violence, yet it resonates with many political issues from environmental, to human well-being, to economic mobility. Can Social Infrastructure still be a meaningful concept as the substrate that supports community, even under its active denial for some? STS should be able to provide important thought and investigations relative to the above questions and do so beyond current popular categorization discourse.

Contact: ekonroyd54@gmail.com

Keywords: Social Movements and STS, Urban STS, Infrastructure, Social Infrastructure

Published: 04/07/2023