Week 2 : Ecologies of Information

In “The Black Stack,” Bratton writes that “the real nightmare, worse than the one in which the big machine wants to kill you, is the one in which it sees you as irrelevant, or as not even a discreet thing to know” (Bratton, 2014). I found this fear of the rapidly changing digital world to be intriguing because an issue that came up in all of this week’s readings is the question of who knowledge infrastructures serve and who it sees as irrelevant and ignores. The pieces by Star and, Hess and Ostrom address the fact that all infrastructures, material or immaterial, online or offline are “subject to social dilemmas” and therefore those who are marginalised or outside the prescribed norm continue to be so (Hess and Ostrom 3, 2007). When it comes to digital or technological development, there often seems to be a disregard for the social issues already present and the potential consequences of the development (the example I have in mind is Amazon Go). In terms of changing, replacing, or improving infrastructure, I am curious about the question brought up by Star, “When is an infrastructure finished and how do we know that?” (Star 379, 1999).

One Reply

  • Lena, thanks for making the effort to think *across* this week’s readings — for considering how these various models might inform one another. Ideally, a well-funded public infrastructure (like schools and libraries), or a common resource (like potable water), should serve *all* members of society — but as you point out, various political-economic and technical compromises lead to the continual marginalization of the disenfranchised. And yes, I love Star’s question regarding when — or if — an infrastructure can ever be *finished.* Yet given that those “social dilemmas” are perpetual, maybe an infrastructure must always, necessarily, be in a state of revision.

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