EXTRACTIONS: Digital infrastructures and the public good
How is the common good articulated/enacted in the making of digital research infrastructures? The building of public infrastructures such as roads and railways can be read as a project of modernization (Edwards, 2003) and colonization (Appel, 2012). The ongoing large scale funding of digital infrastructures can be located within this tradition of infrastructure building, but also raises novel issues and questions. Focusing on infrastructures encompasses not only transport or technological infrastructures that circulate humans and things/nonhumans, but also reflects on a much broader mode of infrastructuring the social through platforms and hubs for knowledge circulation. Today, innovation policies in Europe and beyond seem to point to the future as the next frontier to be colonized by means of technological acceleration. In the name of the public good, states invest today in digital research infrastructures that will enable fast knowledge circulations for the advancement of research in diverse areas such as biotechnology, energy or urbanism. Digital infrastructures are expected to enable value creation, innovation and economic growth. Yet, on the margins of institutional innovation policies, the digital has also enabled the emergence of a number of activist, grassroots and ‘open source’ initiatives that deeply question conventional notions of the public, and the public good.
This workshop aims at exploring interconnections between digital research infrastructures, the public good, and the making of futures. It attends to practices of extraction, abstraction, circulation and appropriation that enable the translation of common resources such as air, water of living entities into digital objects, and to the kind of promissory and future oriented dimensions of such work of infrastructuring. We take that ‘extraction’ encompasses a movement in which something is taken out of its place leaving some traces behind, but without being necessarily replaced. This workshop plays critically on this notion of ‘extraction’. The inspiration for the workshop draws on the case of the Norwegian bioeconomy. In this context, the Norwegian state heavily sponsors the development of digital infrastructures that are expected to enable the transformation of ‘national resources’ such as national fish stocks or the arctic biodiversity, into data and eventually into some kind of knowledge form that is appealing and exploitable by industry. This workshop invites a discussion on the kinds of ‘extractions’ and transformations that such work of digital infrastructuring enables, and the visions of the common good that different forms of infrastructuring may deploy. We invite contributions on empirical instances in which digital research infrastructures are developed within institutions but also by activist and grassroots actors in Norway and beyond. Continue reading