Forum 2016 - Infrastructure Space - Detroit (Ruby Press)
327 326 museum districts. Former industrial corridors, while left in great disarray from years of abandonment, can serve as a valuable model for economic re- development. This is an approach that utilizes renewable energy and green- way practices for future redevelop- ment, and creates jobs for residents in other aging commercial corridors. Through civic engagement and lea- dership, this model is working in the beltline district. Views of the transformation of the beltline’s infrastructure shot by Elke Eichmann during the mobile workshop as part of the LafargeHolcim Forum in Detroit, April 2016. Image p. 318: https://whatgoodcrafts. wordpress.com back to living in and on infrastructures we rarely notice. When you read the preced- ing paragraph, some of you—most likely from prosperous parts of the Global North—probably nodded to yourselves: “Yes, it happens like that.” Others—most likely from the Global South, or poor areas of the North—thought, instead: “Not in my world.” For the majority of people, a lot of infrastructure never becomes transparent. Electricity goes on and off randomly, or is only available at specified hours. Water in the pipes (if they exist) isn’t reliably clean or free of poisons. Absent a sewer system, human waste can’t be flushed away, but only bagged, buried, or left to dry. Internet access is too expensive or completely unavailable, as well as useless for most day-to-day con- cerns. So the infrastructural transpar- ency that concerns me here is a state of privilege, one that remains nonexis- tent or merely aspirational for billions of people. Acknowledging this limited perspective, it’s still worth asking: Ex- actly how does infrastructure become transparent to users? What are the mechanics of its invisibility? Socio-technical Systems and Individual Behavior Most infrastructures can be character- ized as complex, adaptive socio-tech- nical systems, made up of many inter- acting agents and components. Some of these components are technologi- cal: buildings, devices, software, and other artifacts. Others may be social: Routine can end up rendering infrastructure invisible to our eyes. Paul N. Edwards describes how awareness of its presence is radically different depending upon whether you are in the global north or the global south, as illustrated by the example of sanitation infrastructure in South Africa. Infrastructures are often said to be “invisible” or “transparent,” in the sense that they typically recede into the background of everyday life. Because mature infrastructures “just work,” they almost never enter our consciousness. (When was the last time you thought much about your municipal sewage treatment plant, or the sewers that connect you to it?) When they fail—with consequences ranging from minor inconvenience to national catastrophe—maps, manuals, and how-things-work sites sprout like digital mushrooms on the Internet. Once the crisis passes, we forget them again. The lights come on, the levees hold, the toilet flushes away our waste, and cute animal videos flow freely on the Internet. We go The Mechanics of Invisibility: On Habit and Routine as Elements of Infrastructure Paul N. Edwards Infrastructure is rendered invisible through familiarity. From transit to the toilet, Paul N. Edwards shows how the invisibility of infrastructure als contrib es to the pe sistence of injustice long after a change in governance through the example of post-Apartheid South Africa.