Forum 2016 - Infrastructure Space - Detroit (Ruby Press)

195 194 When it comes to the recognition of infrastructure, there are a multitude of different “ways of seeing”, none of which are necessarily neutral. Kathy Velikov and Geoffrey Thün investigate how different modes of representation can engender different readings of inf- rastructure and, in turn, new infrastruc- tural design. Recognition is both an act of seeing and an act of identification. Infrastruc- ture, because it often literally exists infra (below, or underneath), is not always seen, not always easy to iden- tify. Whereas some infrastructure is manifest in physical artifacts—roads, bridges, dams—most infrastructure is largely invisible and can only be recog- nized through its partial physical evi- dence, such as nodal objects—faucets, drains, cover plates, switches—or by organizational patterns. To recognize infrastructure, one often has to not only go below the surface of things, but also learn to see infrastructure’s orga- nizational technologies, such as rules, codes, protocols, standards, as well as its ephemeral technologies, such as electromagnetic or wireless signals. 1 Therefore, central questions in working on and thinking about infrastructure are: How do we recognize it? How can we make it visible? How can we make it public? How can the design disci- plines practice new ways of seeing, of representing, to enable meaningful discourse and action on infrastructure? To think infrastructure demands systems thinking. It requires thinking relationally, thinking through dyna- mic and interacting models, thinking temporally. Systems thinking is a way of recognizing things. Christo- pher Alexander wrote: “A system as a whole is not an object but a way of looking at an object. It focuses on some holistic property which can only be understood as a product of inter- action among parts.” 2 However, ways of seeing, mental models, and the representations we produce to com- municate them are not benign—they have significant ontological, political, and physical ramifications within our societal and built environments. 3 For example, the ways that society has un- derstood the solar system, and the va- rious representational structures that have been created to visualize and model it, have had immense political and social ramifications—consider the histories of Copernicus and Galileo. In the following pages, we elabora- te on three modes of representation, or ways of seeing and recognizing, that have been central within our work on infrastructure—thick cartographies, relational mappings, and projections of urban society. These are situated wit- Territorial Infrastructures: Recognizing Politico- Environmental Ecologies Kathy Velikov and Geoffrey Thün hin the theoretical concepts of ecolo- gy and apparatus, which we argue are critical frameworks in the conceptuali- zation of infrastructure space. The representational approaches described here are not meant to be prescriptive or exhaustive, but rather are intended to open a discussion around the instrumentality of represen- tation, and to enter into discourse with other representational strategies and conceptual approaches mobilized by authors in this volume. Ecology and Apparatus The concepts of ecology and appa- ratus are two ways to approach thin- Fig. 1: “The ways in which man has viewed the solar system have resulted in many ideas about its structure. A single set of objects may be thought of as a system in a number of different ways.” Christopher Alexander, Architectural Design , 1968. king in systems. Each offers specific nuances in the subsequent recogni- tion and representation of infrastruc- ture as a system. Ecology , in its most general sense, can be defined as a study of relations among dynamic agents interacting in coevolution with their environment. It has developed as a science within multiple fields, evolving closely with concepts of general systems theory, cybernetics, and self-organizing emergent pro- cesses, and has become a central paradigm for many disciplines beyond the biophysical sciences—from social studies to political theory to econo- mics. 4 Recent urban and landscape thinking has not only embraced the conceptual framework of ecology and interrelated systems, but has placed this domain of inquiry at the center of their respective disciplinary efforts. 5 Within these practices, questions of infrastructure are being rethought. It is no longer possible to consider infrastructure as a compartmentali- zed and bounded system, manifest through the design and detailing of specific artifacts that are planned, constructed, and managed within silos of expertise and governance. Constructed infrastructure is now increasingly understood as dynami- cally intertwined with biophysical and human systems, exchanging matter, energies, and information beyond the artifacts that are present in these systems. 6 Designers engaging ques- tions of sustainability are beginning to comprehend how, in the words of David Orr, “properly engaged, nature will in fact do a great deal of the work When it comes to the recognition of infrastructure, there are a multitude of different “ways of seeing,” none of which are necessarily neutral. Kathy Velikov an G offrey Thün investigate how different modes of representation can e gender different readings of infrastructure and, in turn, new infrastructural design.

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