Why (on earth) this would be an infrastructure - or a boundary object?

Submitted by Isto Huvila on Tue, 11/03/2020 - 14:27

A doctoral student asked me some time ago about one of my studies, why I am framing a method as an infrastructure (publisher's site). A good question, absolutely, and it is not necessarily that obvious. In that particular study the method was of course a method. At the same time, however, as I at least tried to discuss in the text, it was also a sort of a scaffold and infrastructure to produce a certain kind of documentation of an archaeological site. Some of the doing was conscious but as an infrastructure the two methods compared in the study also, sort of, semi-autonomously led to particular types of observations and documentation. In additional they were infrastructural to each other, ot infrastructural stalwarts as the article proposes. So, they were probably infrastructures this time – but the question was excellent. Not everything is an infrastructure. Moreover, it does not make sense to call everything an infrastructure. In a research article it makes sense – may be only – when it makes analytical sense.

Having written about boundary objects together with my colleagues (publisher's cite), I have sort of made a similar observation to the one of the above mentioned doctoral student in relation to how that concept is used in some of the work citing that article. There is a huge corpus of highly interesting work making use of Susan Star's concept but also cases when it is not entirely obvious why something is called exactly a boundary object.  That something is an object and there is a boundary is not necessarily quite enough. Therefore it might not be a very bad idea – for me or anyone else – to remember Star's apt title: "This is Not a Boundary Object" and ask whether this would count as a boundary object (or an infrastructure), why it would count as such, and if it would be actually useful to conceptualise it as something else.