Infrastructuring interventions or intervening infrastructures?

Together with my colleagues Katrien Dreessen, Liesbeth Huybrechts and Selina Schepers, we wrote an article to be presented in the upcoming PARSE Conference, which will take place next November in Gothenburg.

ABSTRACT

Design as ‘infrastructuring’ approaches design as a long-term process of anticipation or envisioning of potential design (Björgvinsson, Ehn & Hillgren, 2012), often via the development of tools, techniques and processes that allow actors to deal with uncertainties that they encounter in participatory ways (DiSalvo, Clement & Pipek, 2013). Although ‘long-term participation’ and ‘intervention’ may appear to be contradictory, this article describes how interventions contribute to infrastructuring processes that address public space and public issues. Interventions in public space are often driven by a wish to reclaim the common right to it and regularly use a ‘hit-and-run tactic’ (Markussen, 2013). This article discusses the role that these (short-term and often disruptive) interventions can play in long-term participation (O’Neill & Doherty, 2010) and specifically their ways of making uncertainties tangible.

We analyse an infrastructuring process defined by on-going participatory interventions in Genk (BE). We discuss three series of interventions that explicitly shaped our ways of working in the infrastructuring processes, being (1) ‘Hack-a-thing’, (2) ‘FanLab’ (see: Figure 1) and (3) ‘The Other Market’. Using Latour’s framing of uncertainties (Huybrechts, Dreessen & Schepers, 2015), we illustrate how the interventions made uncertainties related to actors, actions and objects/matters tangible and how (long-term) participation was enhanced or obstructed in the process (cfr. the above-mentioned approach).

Our contribution takes on the form of an extended article and a live, participatory presentation of visualisations of the process, documenting how diverse constellations of actors, actions and matters of concern (Latour, 2005) take form and shift through the interventions over time. We specifically focus on the uncertainties that are associated with these constellations to gain an understanding of how interventions enhance or obstruct the infrastructuring process.

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