Urban, critical infrastructures of our modern times are culturally-motivated physical artefacts that represent certain ideologies, values, and imaginations—often realized by those with legitimate authority—about: (1) how a city is to be organized, (2) who and how key services/resources are distributed (to), (3) who benefits from its design and mode of operation, and (4) a society’s relationship with nature (exploitative, cooperative). In this seminar, I seek to “un-blackbox” infrastructures, contending that we can learn a lot through the sociology of urban infrastructures, as it allows us to unmask the undergirding politics of its design and construction, and its penetrating effects on our social consciousness. This social consciousness entails our relationships with nature and others in society, and is achieved through our subtle, yet profound, daily interactions with critical infrastructures.
The notion of soft and hard energy and water infrastructures, drawing from the respective contributions of Amory B. Lovins and Peter Gleick, raise imperative questions about the state of modern critical infrastructures, their potentialities for change, and their implications for the future of societal organization. What other paths can and should infrastructural designs take? And what are they likely to induce for our future, in terms of our resilience as communities and response to the environmental crises of our times—are some important guiding questions for the informed citizen.