Global Infrastructures: The Production of the Modern World

6 July 2023 By

The first INCA workshop

Infrastructures have been always conceptualized as being at once an invisible and fundamental substrate of modern societies: a series of installations that lay below more visible social structures and that enable both biological and social life. As modern life came to increasingly depend on the construction and maintenance of infrastructural networks, tending to the “national infrastructure” came to be conceived as a quintessential state task at once too critical and too massive to be conceived, implemented, and run by a single corporation. Infrastructure has historically indicated the state-provided, universally-distributed services that sustain the national economy of a sovereign state: water and sewerage, energy, transportation, telecommunication and information exchange.

In recent times, however, the concept of ‘infrastructures’ is going through a further wave of semantic contaminations and expansions since it has been applied, for example, to digital platforms. During the one-day seminar that took place at Bologna University on the 9th of June 2023, we delved into the multiple meaning of infrastructures. From the Imperial and Colonial Infrastructures as a vector of Power, and passing through the Oceanic Infrastructures (from submarines cable to satellites that support navigation in a sort of “vertical geography”), we reached the Digital Platforms that support today’s people’s life. Eight speeches a movie showed and discussed with the director Evelina Gambino from the University of Cambridge, and multiple collective discussions. The one-day seminar held a mature discussion on Infrastructures as Political actors and vectors that hopefully will flow into a collective book.