Disrupting Networks from Below
Edited by Tineke M. Egyedi and Donna C. Mehos
Chapter 3: Mapping Institutional, Technological and Policy Configurations of Inverse Infrastructures
Rolf Künneke INTRODUCTION Vree’s (2003) notion of ‘inverse infrastructures’ is very imaginative. As demonstrated in this book, there are several empirical examples that support the view that the governance of some infrastructures1 is evolving from centralized planning towards self-organization. Egyedi et al. (2007) characterize these different approaches as a ‘design vision’ and an ‘inverse vision’, respectively. In the ‘design vision’ infrastructures are subject to intentional and purposeful planning and are supported by some central – traditionally often governmental – authority in order to serve certain public interest goals. Examples include the development of electricity and drinking water infrastructures, railroads and waterways. In contrast, the ‘inverse vision’ is characterized by an evolutionary, spontaneous and non-planned development of infrastructures. A more recent example is the development of Wi-Fi networks. Most of these networks are for private use or are driven by commercial parties like airports, hotels and telecom providers. But there are also inverse, citizen-driven initiatives to interconnect Wi-Fi networks to allow Internet access across a wider area (Lemstra and Hayes 2009). According to the dominant view, most infrastructures would seem to fit the typical design vision of planned, large-scale systems that deliver standardized products and are very much regulated and monitored by government institutions with an increasing role for commercial activities. Inverse infrastructures typically emerge bottom-up, are user-driven, sometimes intended for smallscale use and with products that meet specific consumer needs. Notably, their governance very much relies on self-organization. Although the distinction between the design and inverse vision points to a number...
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