Making Infrastructure: The Dream of a Common Language

  • Laura J. Neumann
  • Susan Leigh Star
Keywords: Information infrastructure, digital library, object world


Can the principles of participatory design be applied in large infrastructure projects? We address our experience as social scientists co-developing a larger digital library project funded by the US government. We focus on how to understand the ways in which potential use, new and old infrastructure, and large project organization interact. We use three concepts: commitments, object worlds, and trajectories, and their associated processes (crystallization, maintainm g ambiguity, finding users, and building on the inertia of the installed base). We discuss the importance of linked visions and dreams, drawing on Watson- Verran's notion of "imaginary."
Paper Session VIII: Designing Large Scale, Distributed Technologies