Disrupting Networks from Below
Edited by Tineke M. Egyedi and Donna C. Mehos
1. Introducing Inverse Infrastructures Tineke M. Egyedi, Donna C. Mehos and Wim G. Vree In the study and practice of infrastructural development to date, there has been an unfortunate tendency to emphasize what may be the excessively neatened and orderly views of system-builders, often to the exclusion of other, more partial, perspectives. (Jackson et al. 2007, n.p.) INTRODUCTION The current dominant paradigm of contemporary infrastructure1 design is that of Hughesian large-scale technical systems (LTSs) (Hughes 1983). However, we see unprecedented infrastructures emerging that are not owned by governments or large businesses. They are not governed centrally or controlled top-down by government or industry as telecommunications, energy networks, and railways, for example, have been for decades. Instead, they are owned and developed by individual citizens or small businesses yet manage to mushroom into local, regional and even global infrastructures. Examples are Wikipedia, networks of privately owned solar energy systems, and citywide Wi-Fi networks. These user-driven, self-organizing, decentralized infrastructures, or inverse infrastructures, as Vree named them, reflect a radical alternative to the model of complex LTSs (Vree 2003; see Appendix I, this volume),2 as we will illustrate. The emergence of inverse phenomena is significant not only because of their increasing share in the infrastructure landscape. They are also a source of unexpected and innovative services, sometimes operating largely independently from and sometimes in symbiosis with existing LTS-like and/or inverse infrastructures. Moreover, because users play a key role in inverse infrastructures the latter promise to suffer less from traditional types of entrenchment...
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