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Infrastructures

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Infrastructures

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Beyond the Big Ditch

Politics, Ecology, and Infrastructure at the Panama Canal

Ashley Carse

In this innovative book, Ashley Carse traces the water that flows into and out from the Panama Canal to explain how global shipping is entangled with Panama's cultural and physical landscapes. By following container ships as they travel downstream along maritime routes and tracing rivers upstream across the populated watershed that feeds the canal, he explores the politics of environmental management around a waterway that links faraway ports and markets to nearby farms, forests, cities, and rural communities. Carse draws on a wide range of ethnographic and archival material to show the social and ecological implications of transportation across Panama. The Canal moves ships over an aquatic staircase of locks that demand an enormous amount of fresh water from the surrounding region. Each passing ship drains 52 million gallons out to sea -- a volume comparable to the daily water use of half a million Panamanians. Infrastructures like the Panama Canal, Carse argues, do not simply conquer nature; they rework ecologies in ways that serve specific political and economic priorities. Interweaving histories that range from the depopulation of the U.S. Canal Zone a century ago to road construction conflicts and water hyacinth invasions in canal waters, the book illuminates the human and nonhuman actors that have come together at the margins of the famous trade route. 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal. Beyond the Big Ditch calls us to consider how infrastructures are materially embedded in place, producing environments with winners and losers.

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Monitoring Movements in Development Aid

Recursive Partnerships and Infrastructures

Casper Bruun Jensen

In <I>Monitoring Movements in Development Aid</I>, Casper Jensen and Brit Winthereik consider the processes, social practices, and infrastructures that are emerging to monitor development aid, discussing both empirical phenomena and their methodological and analytical challenges. Jensen and Winthereik focus on efforts by aid organizations to make better use of information technology; they analyze a range of <I>development aid information infrastructures</I> created to increase accountability and effectiveness. They find that constructing these infrastructures is not simply a matter of designing and implementing technology but entails forging new platforms for action that are simultaneously imaginative and practical, conceptual and technical. After presenting an analytical platform that draws on science and technology studies and the anthropology of development, Jensen and Winthereik present an ethnography- based analysis of the mutually defining relationship between aid partnerships and infrastructures; the crucial role of users (both actual and envisioned) in aid information infrastructures; efforts to make aid information dynamic and accessible; existing monitoring activities of an environmental NGO; and national-level performance audits, which encompass concerns of both external control and organizational learning.Jensen and Winthereik argue that central to the emerging movement to monitor development aid is the blurring of means and ends: aid information infrastructures are both technological platforms for knowledge about aid and forms of aid and empowerment in their own right.

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Paid

Tales of Dongles, Checks, and Other Money Stuff

Bill Maurer

Museums are full of the coins, notes, beads, shells, stones, and other objects people have exchanged for millennia. But what about the debris, the things that allow a transaction to take place and are left its wake? How would a museum go about curating our scrawls on electronic keypads, the receipts wadded in our wallets, that vast information infrastructure that runs the card networks? This book is a catalog for a museum exhibition that never happened. It offers a series of short essays, paired with striking images, on these often ephemeral, invisible, or unnoticed transactional objects -- money stuff.Although we've been told for years that we're heading toward total cashlessness, payment is increasingly dependent on things. Consider, for example, the dongle, a clever gizmo that processes card payments by turning information from a card's magnetic stripe into audio information that can be read by a smart phone's headphone jack. Or dogecoin, a meme of a smiling, bewildered dog's interior monologue that fueled a virtual currency similar to Bitcoin. Or go further back and contemplate the paper currency printed with leaves by Benjamin Franklin to foil counterfeiters, or khipu, Incan records kept in knotted string.Paid's authors describe these payment-adjacent objects so engagingly that for a moment, financial leftovers seem more interesting than finance. Paid encourages us to take a moment to look at the nuts and bolts of our everyday transactions by looking at the stuff that surrounds them.ContributorsBernardo Bátiz-Lazo, Maria Bezaitis, Finn Brunton, Lynn H. Gamble, David Graeber, Jane I. Guyer, Keith Hart, Sarah Jeong, Alexandra Lippman, Julien Mailland, Scott Mainwaring, Bill Maurer, Taylor C. Nelms, Rachel O'Dwyer, Michael Palm, Lisa Servon, David L. Stearns, Bruce Sterling, Lana Swartz, Whitney Anne Trettien, Gary Urton

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The Politics of Invisibility

Public Knowledge about Radiation Health Effects after Chernobyl

Olga Kuchinskaya

Before Fukushima, the most notorious large-scale nuclear accident the world had seen was Chernobyl in 1986. The fallout from Chernobyl covered vast areas in the Northern Hemisphere, especially in Europe. Belarus, at the time a Soviet republic, suffered heavily: nearly a quarter of its territory was covered with long-lasting radionuclides. Yet the damage from the massive fallout was largely imperceptible; contaminated communities looked exactly like noncontaminated ones. It could be known only through constructed representations of it. In The Politics of Invisibility, Olga Kuchinskaya explores how we know what we know about Chernobyl, describing how the consequences of a nuclear accident were made invisible. Her analysis sheds valuable light on how we deal with other modern hazards -- toxins or global warming -- that are largely imperceptible to the human senses.Kuchinskaya describes the production of invisibility of Chernobyl's consequences in Belarus -- practices that limit public attention to radiation and make its health effects impossible to observe. Just as mitigating radiological contamination requires infrastructural solutions, she argues, the production and propagation of invisibility also involves infrastructural efforts, from redefining the scope and nature of the accident's consequences to reshaping research and protection practices. Kuchinskaya finds vast fluctuations in recognition, tracing varyingly successful efforts to conceal or reveal Chernobyl's consequences at different levels -- among affected populations, scientists, government, media, and international organizations. The production of invisibility, she argues, is a function of power relations.

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