Conceptualizing the political ecology of urban infrastructures: insights from technology and urban studies
Environment and Planning A, 2009, vol. 41, issue 8, 1924-1942
The debate on urban sustainability has now been on the research agenda for a number of years. One element that has, however, been undertheorized and empirically understudied is the crucial importance of networked urban infrastructures for the ecological sustainability of cities. These infrastructures mediate resource flows and vitally shape environmental practices and sociotechnical innovation in cities. It is thus argued that we need adequate conceptual approaches which reflect the complex interdependencies between cities, networked infrastructures, and urban ecologies and which broaden our understanding of the ways we can develop, govern, and renew our infrastructures in cities in a sustainable way. Scrutinizing the relevant debates both in technology studies and in urban studies, the author reveals that none of the theoretical approaches discussed seems entirely suitable for conceptualizing these interdependencies and the requirements for the sustainable redesign of urban infrastructures. The author shows, however, how urban and technology studies might inspire, complement, and benefit each other in conceptualizing the urban political ecology of networked infrastructures. Combining elements of the different analytical approaches, it is argued, could create new opportunities for the empirical study of infrastructures.
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