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Part 1: Documentation and surface finish
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AS 1684.2-2010 Supplements Non-Cyclonic unlocked pdf for copying and updating
Infrastructure as world-building Stephen Read Patrizia Sulis
Introduction Movement infrastructures are often understood as engineering – as the application, and therefore theoretically uninteresting (and politically neutral), side of a city reduced to sets of abstract propositions. The city is reduced again, below the level of the abstractions, to a Lego set of expensive but in principle unproblematic physical-functional objects and elements, whose i nteraccessibility needs are met, again unproblematically, by ‘physical networks’ of highways, railways, tramways, streets and paths. Space here is self-evident, and the speed, reach and simultaneity of high-tech connections the means to its ‘overcoming’. We suggest that any notion of the dynamic materiality of the city and its self-productive or self-generative power is lost in this loss of the object of the city ‘in itself’. And we are concerned here with reversing this emphasis on the abstract or theoretical before the material, and want to instead see the physical as already embedding and embodying its own ‘theory’. We’re interested in trying to “illuminate the object’s nature, or, if you will the object’s relationship to nature, and reconstitut[ing] the process of its genesis and the development of its meaning” (Lefebvre 1991: 113). We attempt to track, in this way, some of the concerns of Henri Lefebvre who attempted to get beyond the abstraction and ‘closure’ of social theory by proposing an ‘urban society’ born in the relation between people and city. We are concerned, as Lefebvre was, to find sources of intrinsic creativity and genesis in this ‘urban society’ – as an alternative and possible counter to the ‘absolute politics’ of the state and its knowledge institutions, in which we are, according to him, transformed into subjects of power. We seek instruments to begin to understand the formative processes of this urban society, as a step to eventually finding strategies to understand and build the city as “more or less the oeuvre of its citizens instead of imposing itself upon them as a system, as an already closed book” (Lefebvre 1996: 117). As part of this process of finding instruments, we are interested here in understanding infrastructures as material, socio-technological frames that locate urban life, and urban subjects as knowing bodies. This takes us beyond a functional determination – but also beyond the simple subjectivities of individual points of view and into the ‘objectivities’ of immersive sociotechnical co-constructions where we live and understand ourselves and the world, between things and other people. The spaces established are not only of being and action but also of appearance and politics (Arendt 1970), and we want to understand better how the city conditions and forms urban life in practice, ultimately to inform our design and planning practice.
Beyond the zenith view
We stand usually outside the world to imagine it. Doreen Massey, in a classic paper, zooms in from terrestrial orbit, describing more and more geometries of movement and flow as these flash into and out of focus. From the movement of data between satellites, she zooms in to the traces of aircraft, people, money and goods between continents and regions, on to trains, cars and trams between and within cities – and eventually to a woman in sub-Saharan Africa, transporting water on foot. Massey sees a power geometry here, linked to what she calls ‘time-space ‘ti me-space compression’ compression’ (Massey 1994). We map and imagine (and select, equalise and flatten) connections and the things we see connected from the view from outside, and wonder from above what causes what and from where? The history of these questions, and the ‘speculative abstractions’ (to quote Lefebvre) in which t hey are framed, fills many libraries. We still don’t have clear answers, but are learning to distrust the instincts that lead us into problems of what Lefebvre used to call ‘the illusion of transparency’ – the idea that our thought is adequate to the task as it is illuminated by our own designs on it. The way we frame questions has also become less cut and dried as the ‘big categories’, like society, economy, technology, are increasingly problematised by new viewpoints which emphasise material processes connected connected to real people and places. The notion of the social construction of reality has of course a relatively long history in urban thinking, but the idea that society (or any other ‘big category’) is already there and determining of other things is itself problematic, especially in the context of contemporary changes that suggest society is itself being remade in these processes. We need to shift our viewpoint and find the worlds we practically inhabit rather than try to see and command things from above. The surface of the shrinking global world is not the space in which these questions are answered; rather, we propose, this will be in a topology of situations, historically equipped and practically inhabited by the people to whom the knowledge matters. Our concern will be these other spaces, and the power geometries of differentiated views on the world from within. Our starting point will be that the world appears to all of us as something more or less coherent. It also appears in different and particular ways depending on where we are and in what collective construction we find and maintain our view on it. Then it is also, we suggest, the practical context for life and action and for a practical knowing and doing as these appear to someone, somewhere. This multiplication and differentiation of coherent and perceived ‘worlds’ problematises space of course, but it problematises also what we think of as ‘world’. Lefebvre began (but did not complete) a move to a different idea of ‘world’ beyond the totalising tendencies of modern and Marxist thought. Inspired indirectly by Heidegger, he proposed ‘globalisation’ was better understood as something he called ‘mondialisation’ – or the way the world becomes ‘world’ for people. He was interested particularly in the way the world ‘worlds’ differently in different places and for different people. This is clearly not the world as it might be understood by a physical geographer, as something standing apart from human practices and processes of knowledge. Here, our understanding and the sense of our being, become thoroughly linked to the world; “the being of beings and the being worldly of things are
almost synonyms”. The human and the world are not related as two separate things, but are both “enclosed … and disclosed together” (Elden 2008: 51; 53).1 It is a character of the patterns of thinking we have been bequeathed that we overestimate the locus of coherency, intelligence and action in the mind of the individual. We also underestimate the productive force of ti me on structures of power and experience. Our most basic experience is not of an abstracted and universal space and time, it is of the world, or ‘worlds’, we construct and accumulate and share as ‘objective’ between us. These are ‘worlds’ into which we are ‘thrown’ – to use Heidegger’s expression – whose rationales we learn, often as unquestioned normativities, and whose structures make not just our individual but also our collective understandings of our existence coherent. These public ‘objectivities’, embedded in the world, include the organisational structures and infrastructures that constitute spheres of place in the coherence – which are the means to our seeing and knowing our place world. But we need to ask first what are the natures of these spaces and places, and what is the structure that already articulates already articulates them? Perhaps the first clue comes from political geography, where there is a view that networks of cities are somehow and at some level more fundamental than cities alone. It is an idea that Peter Taylor has made the centre of his work – cities, for him, ‘come in packs’. We are going to generalise this to say that an interesting way of characterising places – or urban objects and elements in general, because in a relational view of the world the ‘where’ and the ‘what’ of things collapse into one another – would be by saying that places and other urban things come in whole arrangements or networks. And these whole arrangements and the individual things that make them up co-constitute one another and support each other’s identities and meanings. This is like li ke saying, everything needs a context to be what it is, and that there are bounds to that context.
Urban relations We are also saying that all generic urban entities – cities, neighbourhoods, buildings – come in networks of related entities, and indeed that their status as genera depends on this. The relation between genus and particular is interesting. A city is a city through relating to other cities, and, Amsterdam is what it is through the fact that it relates to Rotterdam and Utrecht. But it is neither Rotterdam nor Utrecht; it is different. It is this sort of ‘difference’ that holds ‘worlds’ together by making things meaningful. The particularisation and realisation of a generic adds richness and detail rather than diminishing the concept, or becoming an imperfect version of an ideal. The generic is, in fact, as network and context, as real as the particular – and is a necessary part of the way we engage reality. It is a factor of coherence and sense, part of the ‘knowability’ factor in the real. In relationality, a particular is a development. We can reject the idea that we can define any place or object in vacuo. vacuo. The point about networks is not the connecting of already made and known 1
Eugen Fink, Spiel als Weltsymbol , quoted in Elden 2008.
objects, it is about objects becoming what they are in networks. The emphasis shifts from questions of fact and function, understood and defined from outside the system, to questions of coherence and sense and the ‘seeing’ of things as what they are from the inside. Things and ideas about them come to be together – are produced are produced , and co-constitute one another in whole networks that are something like what Thomas Kuhn called ‘paradigms’. The Greek concept of tekhne of tekhne emphasises the inseparability of skill, procedures, knowledge and attention (Ingold 1996), and it is through our technique of the built environment that we find a way to answer questions of order and coherence. The genesis of things depends on technique (which is also to say ‘making’), interpretation and embeddedness. embeddedness. The view we outline here does not deal with experience through an interior mentality or subjectivity but takes experience out of the subject and into a relation with the urban world itself. This relation happens via (collective) ( collective) technique or procedure, as material and organisation supports and emplaces us, secures our relations with things and endures. This makes technique an integral part of our structure of experience. experience. At the same time it suggests that our worlds are shaped not by abstracted theory so much as by the organisation and structures we build into our worlds. This movement away from abstraction and the view from outside (or above), with its dis-placing or de-worlding of thought (or of rationality in general) makes of knowledge a relation between the knower and the known. What is brought to or disclosed in thought will depend very profoundly on the material conditions which pertain – which we maintain organisationally and technically. The radical part of this is that all our knowledge of the world will depend on our relation to it – and may change as we change our situation with respect to it. Fields of perception and experience are, and have always been, shaped by the technical, and the way different technical paradigms support different situated views on the world. We live immersed in collective and historical constructions that are power regulating architectures that di fferentiate and coordinate different ranges and scopes of being and action. And the procedures and techniques of urban space are not just means to control the body but also, as Foucault insisted, the means to freeing it. We live between things and places. All lives are a complex trajectory and a putting-together of the diverse components of real lives. The issue for the city is not only the functional details of these chaînes opératoire, but also how we are able to ‘see’ our way to getting it all done. We will suggest therefore that we live in immersive technical worlds of objects we act on and towards: ‘object worlds’ that are not so much ‘scopes’ (instruments for extending vision) as ‘optics’ ‘ optics’ (sets (sets of coordinates for seeing). The Panopticon is one case, but many other technical systems also open, and synoptic views on the ‘worlds’ they are themselves have always opened, synoptic views responsible for articulating (see Latour & Hermant 2006). Movement infrastructures, including road, rail, metro and airline systems define places and coordinate things in their range r ange and scope; they constitute places and regions as they connect them, making them knowable and coherent and part of local, urban, regional and even global structures of knowledge and action.
Technology, in a material and embodied view of life and things, is not abstracted or distanced from human life. Technologies, in their reality, and in their relation to particular parti cular people whose lives they affect, become the means by which ‘worlds’ are disclosed to us; they become structures in which we know and do things. How may the world be what it is for us if not through techniques of environing, inhabiting and doing (Heidegger would say, ‘Building, Living, Thinking’), and through the carefully emplaced equipment with which we surround ourselves? This is a world that we know in the way we build our ‘worlds’, rather than in disembodied thought or theory. Space and time, society and economy, or others of these ‘big categories’, are outcomes of techniques and constructions and the resulting material processes that articulate and animate our world. Against the abstractions of Marxian, modern, and even later Heideggerian views that totalise the history of technology, technology is seen here as a concrete and particular affair. Technology has also always defined what we know through it. There is no pre-technological mondialisation – it would be like suggesting Europeans could have known China before ships and cameltrains! It makes ‘worlding’ plural because the ‘world’ disclosed, in which we are disclosed-enclosed, depends on the particular technologies practically absorbed in particular knowing and action. Globalisation is seen today, from a position of abstraction somewhere outside the process, as a universalisation of the effects of technology in a generalised progress towards a ‘technification of nature’. Mondialisation is, on the other hand, about the way particular technologies (some of unprecedented power) have given some particular places and the particular people they connect enormous power advantages in terms of the ‘worlds’ they see and know and their capacities for acting in those worlds. We experience infrastructures from the inside, and they radically alter our perceptions of the world around us. We might even imagine we inhabit a different society and a different city when seen from a freeway from the airport to the downtown hotels than when seen from the streets of the decaying inner city that the freeway skirts. The issue today is not how a new ‘technological paradigm’ of microelectronic technologies and biotech (Castells 1989) fundamentally alters our view on the world, so much as the clarification of a metaphilosophical metaphilosophical basis for the thinking of the space of the world in general, with its pressing issues of justice and sustainability.
Acting in ‘worlds’ What makes up the ‘worlds’ we inhabit and do things in, and how are they organised? One influential way of approaching this problem i s to say that we pick and choose the places of our individual lives and put them together ourselves in movement and time-budgets (Dijst 1999). In this view, subjects do all the acting, not to mention the calculating of spatio-temporal constraints and efficiencies, while the places and objects, to that which the action is aimed, remain inactive.. In this view subjects occupy a transparent mental space, unconstrained by materiality, while objects are tied into a three or four
dimensional ‘block universe’ which ties down the location of all and everything. Our view is that this is inadequate: it misunderstands the spaces we inhabit, and underestimates both the organisational patterns and structures that already constitute our ‘worlds’, and the extent of our commitment commitment to these structures through the embedding which is a condition of our inhabitation. Understanding systems from the inside, the locus of subjectivity and action shifts from the actor to the actor-technology or actor-network relationship. What acts is not simply the actor with his or her stock of ideas and motivations, but the actor integrated with the technical and socialorganisational systems that enable the action and make it coherent. We end up with diverse and even diversely motivated, but perceptually coordinated and co-located people and material, embedded in networks of places and doing things between them. Karin Knorr Cetina has proposed the idea of ‘epistemic cultures’ which are not social or mental constructs, but sets of ‘arrangements and mechanisms’ mechanisms’ including people, objects and technologies associated with the processes of producing and interpreting knowledge (Knorr Cetina 1999). Epistemic cultures imply common modes of doing things in common situations and settings. The knowing of how to interpret things, and how and when to act, is supported in organised situations supported by technics. At the same time, a technically coordinated space and time is constructed in the apparatus, as well as a common set of objects, and a language to describe them. The question of how things remain together in arrangements is crucial, but simple to answer. There is a material basis to the meaning and significance of entities, in being with other entities, and in order to remain durably what they are, they need to be built into and maintained in place in synthetic and realised arrangements – in what we call ‘networks’ or ‘infrastructures’. Knorr Cetina has been studying the working practices of financial traders for many years and what she finds, in place of ‘global networks’ is a “microstructured network architecture” demonstrating “patterns of coordination and behaviour that are global in scope and microlevel in character” (Knorr Cetina 2003: 7). A global gl obal culture, consisting of common objects, localised in precisely engineered and understandings and practices, is localised in connected situations. The relevant factor is not the ‘flow of information’, which is in any event illegible in its pure informational form, but the objects and subjectivities and ways of doing things that belong in the infrastructure. Knorr Cetina argues that many of the actions and interactions that matter occur not in direct face-to-face or even person-to-person situations but in what she calls ‘synthetic situations’ technologically rendered and maintained. These maintain a background condition for action with a routine set of objects and practices and structure of expectations. People act through synthetic situations and in a technologically maintained space and time. And much depends, she says, “on getting the synthetics right … [t]his in itself implies a shift in power and relevance from the interaction to the situation” (Knorr Cetina 2009: 70).
Action is a joint achievement of actor and synthetic situation, and actors, objects and practices working together construct larger entities – like the financial market, or the neighbourhoods, cities or regions which we will discuss next. These are experienced as ‘worlds’ from the inside. They maintain epistemic cultures by maintaining commensurability of knowledges, standards and equipment across the different sites in the network, and across working times and spaces. Places like trading floors will be separated, and even secured, from places outside the network, even though these other places may be proximate. The systemic ‘world’ is both connected and bounded by its technics. Knorr Cetina’s ‘technological paradigm’ is no abstraction: it is a practical and technical organisation set up in specific sites and networks of sites, and the project from here on becomes to understand how human activity and agency have always depended upon a sited technicity which has often gone unnoticed, or treated as if it were a constraint on more abstract processes.
Political spaces; territorial synoptics We tend to forget the political dimension of infrastructures. Infrastructures are expensive and no one builds them without very powerful motivations. The good reasons for the huge investments involved have included the consolidations and restructurings of empires and nations and the restructuring of cities in response to periodic crises of a capitalist economy. Cases include Hadrian’s consolidation of the Roman Empire through the building of roads and cities, and Napoleon’s and Napoleon III’s building of road and rail systems as part of the nation-building and industrialisation of France. These cases point to infrastructure’s role in establishing and consolidating political territories, one that is occluded in a functional perspective reducing territorial networks to accessibilities. Urban boulevards and freeways have been political instruments in the hands of Haussmann and Robert Moses, and metropolitan freeway building today works to reinforce and distribute suburban consumerist lifestyles and their economics – including the mortgages that have been absorbed into a global financial market (Harvey 2008). Infrastructures are strategic, focused interventions that respond to and transform the functional shapes of territories, but embody also specific visions of and for territories. Some sort of design or plan is necessarily involved. They consolidate or change things to some end, and institute and embody specific rationalities that make certain structures of expectations and actions coherent. We need to be a little careful with this notion of coherence: what we don’t mean is that all actions are determined by the infrastructure and its strategies and intentions; rather all actions that occur in a given infrastructure will be contextualised by the logic of the infrastructure – as an action or idea is related to a paradigm. It is in the context of the paradigm that the action or idea makes sense, or not. Action is not simply limited or constrained by this relation, rather its sense (or non-sense) is disclosed in the relation. Infrastructures are about the establishment and realisation of some strategy
or rationality by the institution of some normative space. Infrastructures realise specific normativities while establishing synoptics on territories. They link visions of territories to visions on territories – not always with ulti mate fidelity, but with a certain objective finality. Infrastructures establish the reality of territories. This brings us to the next thing we forget about infrastructures which is their historical specificity. They are built in specific times and to specific purposes, but are then themselves historical and liable to change. They will be products of a certain time in more ways than one: at one level an infrastructure will implement a strategic response to some perceived need or conceived vision; at another, the infrastructure will institute, or consolidate, a structure of places as a network of the generic urban elements we mentioned earlier. Then, while the visions and embedded rationalities may change (a trading network may become a military alliance; an industrial centre may become a regional shopping hub), the structures of places will have extraordinary powers of persistence. We are governed by orders and arrangements we may not even see – because they are part of our equipment for seeing; and not all of our structures of power are down to language. The governance of people’s expectations and conduct incorporates all manner of technical-organisational orders and effects, which will include the place-structures of regions or territories. London is the famous underground map realised – at least to people who are travelling by underground. The infrastructure is invested with a diagramatic topology as it realises a territory with a specific place-structure. This is not just a convenient representation. The structure is a distribution of districts and neighbourhoods with well-defined names and relations to each other, and once grasped through the infrastructure, these places and r elations stand in for the underground map as much as the other way round. The map may be smaller and handier, but in topological terms, and as a synoptic, map and infrastructure are identical. This identity is one of a sense or coherence, founded in the relations between places and their relation to a territorial whole. These relations found a ‘world’ of significant places. The infrastructure both responds to a pre-existing structure of places and its connective fabric, and consolidates this overground network. Other systems complement and support the territorial vision instituted with the underground system. The effect is that today the whole is locked into a synoptic every Londoner understands as London, with all its well-known places made visible and present. The equipment here may not be as high-tech as in Knorr Cetina’s example, but is no inconsiderable matter. Beside the transportation systems themselves and their signalling, scheduling and other support systems, there is housing built in a systematic relation to transportation systems, business and industry to which employees, suppliers and clients need to be connected, and all manner of other technical and support systems, including street and line maintenance, energy, water and drainage systems, kerb profiles, street planting and traffic signs. This is an historical and practical objectivity which informs every movement and every action – as well as every further intervention – in the space of London. It is, we are proposing, the objective space of London.
An historically instituted network of neighbourhoods exists in a relation of parts to the whole of a city. London, as a synoptic objectivity, is simultaneously and indivisibly, percept, concept and culture or practice, a patch of territorial order realised. The places are consolidated or stabilised not only by their articulation and definition in underground and other technical movement systems systems but also by their ‘generic realities’ as ‘neighbourhoods’ and ‘city’. What is real is not just the places but also the, coherence-giving, sense-making structure of part, whole and scale. This is an artifice, a device, a construction, which constitutes a particular urban territory and locks it in place. This construction has a remarkable level of stability and persistence as a place-structure, but also, to a lesser degree, as a located, territorially coordinated diversity of cultures and practices. What these cultures and practices share; what they have in common between them, is, before all else, this structure of places. Integrating a new (metropolitan say), synoptic, at a different territorial scope and scale into this means having to deal with an already constructed, consolidated and instituted whole. The establishment of a metropolitan region requires a new act of construction, or the consolidation of something which might already exist in insipient form. This new construction will not, except by destruction, be able to transform the structure of places of the old one. It may, by a number of effects we do not have the space to go into here, effect a decline in certain parts or in the whole of the old, but the places and their structure as a whole will remain.
From ‘infrastructural worlds’ to centres Beyond a view of technology as a generalised factor of modernisation and progress, or of a synchronic optimisation or efficiency, it becomes instead a strategy and strategy and a construction of stable perceptual ‘worlds’. But much of this is impossible to fully understand or even see in a dis-placed and de-worlded thinking. Some of the effects of this will be even less easy to see. We have to get beyond abstractions and the universalisations of language to fi nd the effects of synoptic technologies and place structures on the everyday lived orders of cities. The example we use here is of the city of Milan.
Figure 1. The Milan region, highlighting the freeway system.
Milan exists in a region (figure 1) in which it is the dominant centre. The region has today become urban, a metropolis consisting of Milan and a number of other centres distributed through the region. Milan centres regional movements, movements, a large proportion of which start or end in Milan. We imagine a border between Milan and the region, but in reality none exists. But Milan does not dissolve into the regional territory; it maintains its coherence and integrity as a centre, as do the other centres in the region. So what does it mean to be in Milan? Something does indeed change in the transition, because at one moment we are going to Milan and the next we are in Milan. What has changed is that in the first case we are immersed in metropolitan elements and equipment and between places which are towns and cities; in the second we are immersed in urban elements and equipment, and between places which are neighbourhoods and urban centre. Being inside means infrastructure, and a different perceptual ‘world’. And we being in a different infrastructure, can map this, so while we cannot put a line to the edge that separates the
inside of Milan from the outside, we can most certainly map the movement networks that constitute being ‘inside Milan’ as well as those that constitute being ‘outside Milan’ but ‘inside the region’.
Figure 2. Milan, highlighting the metro system. Size of metro stops relates to diversity of users.
Figure 2 shows the Milan metro system – the subject of the research that these drawings are part of. Being in the metro means being part of a synoptic that, for those moderately practiced at it, is the whole of the city of Milan. The Metro doesn’t connect things arbitrarily; it i t connects things that are understood to be the parts of the whole city. And in the process it constructs and stabilises the city as a whole and as a distribution of parts. Most of these parts are neighbourhoods but closer to the centre we also find some anomalies, with civic and commercial functions and areas.
Figure 3. Milan, highlighting the 19th C boulevard system. Size of metro stops relates to diversity of users.
Figure 3 shows a movement network that articulated, at a different point in the city’s past, the city of Milan. Here, as well, the city was built and consolidated as a whole. The parts were connected by a movement network of streets and boulevards, and most of the civic and commercial functions mentioned above were the parts the parts in the whole city at this point in time. A whole city was constructed then which has transformed but never been deconstructed. The metro was a strategy, at the time, for constructing a new or ‘greater’ Milan. The older city is still experienced as a whole city today, in a different (somewhat slower) technology and infrastructure of places. It is a city within a larger city – which is itself within a region, and we see a layering of wholes, each with their appropriate parts and infrastructures and establishing layered structures of places. It is a layering that profoundly affects the activity, intensity and perceptual values of places. The most vivid and diversely used places in the city today are those that incorporate the most layers of ‘city’.
Figure 4. Metro system transects showing use of stops by different user groups.
This vividness and intensity has nothing to do with centrality if by centrality we mean being at the centre of an area seen in the zenith view – places are central by virtue of the way they situate us in technically constructed ‘worlds’ that open out onto other ‘worlds’ in a construction and perception of the city in depth. Centrality is an effect of people and of their embeddedness in the strategically constructed perceptual and political ‘worlds’ that make up cities.
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