Larkin is mentioned, Star is mentioned. Nothing new on that front. The expansion of the understanding of infrastructure not as mere materiality but as socio-material assemblages. But also the importance to study the boring things, like protocolls and standards.

Graham and Thrift also challenges the view that breakdowns are anomalies and instead consider them the default state of infrastructures in constant need of repair and maintenance from both users and experts, and that breakdowns are often not catastrophic but rather opportunities for learning, adaption, and innovation that goes beyond mere restoration (Graham & Thrift, 2007). Graham and Thrift thus puts maintenance at the heart of being in a world fighting against constant entropic decay, and in contrast to a social theory that have tended to emphasize connection and assembly.

Besides being very poetically, I love this mention as it fits very much to my dissertation proposal. If maintenance is the default mode for infrastructure, we need to think participatory on that level, or else we’ll fail.

They relate this perspective to postphenomenological research about the affect of the thingness of materiality of human affairs that goes beyond merely their culturally assigned meanings.

What a sentence, I can’t capture it at first glance. But it definitly triggers my curiousness. It’s about where and how we get into contact with infrastructure, sometimes it’s hidden, sometimes it’s a barrier and sometimes it’s background noise.

The problematic of scale is captured very nicely in the article. Researchers of infrastructure have to at once study the micro interactions of users with the infrastructure, such as pressing a button, but also the macro systematics. Sometimes things have to be researched that are related but not close, such as political or juridical decision-centers, and protocol archives.

Since infrastructures can be defined in such diverse ways, chooseing a method for studying them will have to be based on the theory being employed in each case.

This bit seems very relevant to me. I’m not sure which theory I would base my disseration upon yet. I guess the approach that I lined up so far was very close to Star’s recommendation of

a mixed-method approach to studying infrastructures involving literature and historical research together with ethnographic field studies and user studies across multiple sites, all done with an ethnographic sensibility to how people make meanings and how those meanings are inscribed in the built environment

Infrastructures can create social roles (such as the passanger with the implementation of the metro). With regards to that, we could say that citizen scientist doesn’t exist before participatory research projects or a participatory digital image archive.

An important takeaway from this read is the importance on considering the maintenance of infrastructure as something integral to it.


Larkin, B. (2013). The Politics and Poetics of Infrastructure. Annual Review of Anthropology, 42(1), 327–343.

Star, S. L. (1999). The Ethnography of Infrastructure. American Behavioral Scientist, 43(3), 377–391.