INFRA+ Infrastructure for Fragmented Cities: Fictions

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How can infrastructure improve life in fragmented cities, now and in the future?

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  • Dr Bodhisattwa Chattopadhyay, University of Oslo (bio)
  • Dr Paul Graham Raven, Lund University (bio)

Chair: Mr Mark Shtanov [bio]


Dr Bodhisattwa Chattopadhyay

Speculative Futures of Global South Infrastructures

This paper presents infrastructural issues from select Future Fictions within contemporary transmedial Futurisms from the Global South (GS). It specifically highlights infrastructures in the context of imagined future urban spaces (inhabited primarily if not exclusively by human populations) and focuses on their functionality, including sociopolitical systems and systems of governance. It presents four different infrastructures that make up the composition of this speculative future urban: recycling and waste management infrastructures, energy infrastructures, health infrastructures, and food infrastructures. These infrastructures connect to different planetary challenges, including climate change, demographic change, and technological change, and are entangled with questions of sustainability. By taking a relatively expansive survey approach the paper is also interested in exploring how such GS narratives can be studied by enunciating a difference between three overlapping but distinct worldbuilding design toolkits: science fiction (as genre toolkit), architecture fiction (as a prototyping toolkit), and future fiction (as a speculative toolkit).

Dr Paul Graham Raven

Practices, politics, prestidigitation: exploring the infrastructural Big Dumb Object with tools from (science) fiction

This paper begins with the Big Dumb Object, a critical term from science fiction scholarship, as both figure and ground for an exploration of the infrastructural: the inscrutability of the BDO is an echo of the sublimity of the logistical metasystem, a hyperobject whose unseen builders and maintainers are not so much alien as alienated.

By plunging into this relational gulf, discarding the false maps and models of the MLP and its progeny, we will discover the dynamics of sociotechnical reconfiguration as situated performances within the flattened ontology of social practice theory. Having thus reframed infrastructure as a political question (and a political actor), we reveal sociotechnical futuring itself as a political practice, whose democratisation might be achieved through the use of narrative techniques to access the demand-side perspective, so often omitted from the god’s-eye-view of “transition management”.

Finally, with a little help from the much-misparsed Third Law of Arthur C Clarke, we will slingshot out to an understanding of the infrastructural metasystem as underpinning the prestidigitatory flourish of the spectacle, and of ourselves as thrilled marks for capital’s stage-patter. The absent alien civilisation that built the BDO in which we wander was always-already ourselves: a generation ship named Gaia following a trajectory which, though decided long ago, can still be changed.

INFRA+ Rationale

How can infrastructure be chosen, planned, designed, implemented, maintained, enhanced and used to improve human well-being in formal and informal urban areas?

The sustained functioning of infrastructural systems has multiple positive effects on human health and wellbeing. Infrastructure is therefore central to the UN Sustainable Development agenda, featuring in and contributing to most Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs; Goals 1, 3, 5-14 among others).

The lack of access to sanitation, water, transport, energy or communication infrastructure can curtail sustainable development and entrench existing or create new social inequality dynamics, for instance in further stigmatising the urban poor.

The INFRA+ webinar series aims to identify links between context-specific infrastructural challenges, approaches to their solution and universal mechanisms towards improved sustainability.

Speakers from across academia and practice with focus on East and Southeast Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East present their unique disciplinary perspectives and propose transdisciplinary directions for future research.

Check out all INFRA+ webinars here.

Image by Thank you for your support Donations welcome to support from Pixabay .

This webinar series is funded through the University of Manchester Global Challenges Research Fund.

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