How to See Infrastructure

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With so much at stake, researching infrastructure is no simple task. It must be the political goal of situated knowledges to repair infrastructure’s human mechanisms while dispelling the futurist aesthetics of technological acceleration, of utopian mastery, of authoritative control from the level of boilerplates on up. The situated researcher must dispute both the informatic and physical prisons, the construction of which we are even now funding, and uncover those who are being buried in the progress, without falling into the trap of implied neutrality. Haraway suggests a coding trickster—a shadow spirit, operating beyond the bounds of good and evil, equipped with enough knowledge of our objects’ codes in order to manipulate them—might be model for escaping of our current binds, but one thinks the world of 2015 might have had as much of self-appointed tricksters claiming great coding power as it can stand. No masks, no tricks, no mere aesthetics will reclaim our infrastructure. Only knowledges, situated and amplified as we can.

Everyone leaves traces in infrastructure, like the artifacts of the Korean Workers’ Museum in Sekula’s Fish Story. Whether an artist, writer, or social scientist, the researcher who glimpses otherwise hidden roles bound up in the networks of contemporary capitalism can’t help but be fascinated, even if they are also left mortified, depressed, and powerless in the face of what is seen. No book or project will reveal the infrastructure totally, or solve all the problems. But by looking in the crawl spaces, being willing to get one’s hands dirty, to crawl a bit, to let one’s eyes adjust to the shrouded places, the researcher begins to make infrastructure the structure it is meant to be. – Adam Rothstein, “How to See Infrastructure: A Guide for Seven Billion Primates”

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