Politics of Open Infrastructures

Exploring open digital knowledge infrastructures and socio-political dynamics

Call for contributions

Editors: Astrid Mager, Katja Mayer, Renée Ridgway

Please submit your abstract for review by January 31, 2024. The abstract should be 500 words. Final chapters should be around 8,000 words max., including the bibliography. For more details, click the links below.

Introduction
Themes
Keydates
Language and Open Access
Contact

Introduction
Open infrastructures come in different shapes and sizes. Ranging from small community networks to large-scale data infrastructures, they all share an emphasis on collaborative development and a collective benefit from use. They prioritize accessibility, transparency, and inclusivity and thereby challenge traditional notions of hierarchy and control, advocating for more decentralized, participatory approaches to managing and using these vital resources. The movement towards commoning data and infrastructures marks a shift from individual ownership and consumption to collective stewardship and communal advantages. Encompassing practices in science, culture, education, administration and welfare, the act of opening up infrastructures is contigent on the interplay between human organisation and specific social activities (Star 1999, Bowker and Star 2006), aligning with the idea of “infrastructuring” openness. 

“Infrastructuring” openness refers to the ongoing, sometimes participatory processes of designing and modifying infrastructure systems to promote open access, open methods, inclusivity, collaboration, and adaptability in a way that they become embedded into everyday practices and support diverse user needs. Within the regulatory frameworks of Europe’s emphasis on “digital sovereignty,” open infrastructures, especially open source initiatives, are garnering significant political interest. However, openness faces several challenges, including the commercial capture of open technologies and issues related to community governance and the distribution of responsibilities. Thus, the question arises: how might open infrastructures contribute to sustainable liveable futures within the political, technological and cultural fabrics of society?

The forthcoming book, “Politics of Open Infrastructures,” addresses the variety of open infrastructures by examining open digital knowledge infrastructures and their complex interrelations with socio-political dynamics. Knowledge infrastructures, in their broadest sense, comprise robust networks of people, artifacts, and institutions that generate, share, and maintain specific knowledge about the human and natural worlds (Edwards 2010). They are often based on digital platforms and open-source principles ensuring that knowledge resources, such as scientific research, educational materials, public services, application programming interfaces (APIs) and standards are freely available, yet they are sometimes also modifiable, governed by their communities of users. This notion of politics highlights that open infrastructures are not neutral, technical artifacts (Winner 1980) but rather intertwined with values and power relations that influence their design, implementation, and impact on society. We therefore emphasize the role of infrastructures in creating and reinforcing social order, and vice versa, where decisions about infrastructure development and maintenance can have significant implications for social inclusion, access to resources, and the distribution of power.

The collection of chapters in this book will provide a multi-faceted exploration of open digital knowledge infrastructures, a critical area where traditional positions on technology development, knowledge production, and social innovation are contested. It will delve into various aspects of such infrastructures, examining how they serve as sites for connection, collaborative creation, shared resources and new models for collective action or governance. The book scrutinizes embodied principles and values in processes of “infrastructuring” openness, while also navigating the complexities of responsibility, sustainability, and ethical considerations. Through a diverse range of perspectives, this collection reveals how open digital knowledge infrastructures are not only technical frameworks or resources but also instruments of social change, shaping and being shaped by specific politics.

Themes

Specifically focusing on the “politics” of open infrastructures, we invite contributions that investigate the complex relations between the making and governing of open digital knowledge infrastructures and socio-political dynamics. By reflecting on how such infrastructures are shaping and being shaped by societal structures and values, we encourage a critical examination of how these systems are designed, who they serve, and what social and political orders they might perpetuate or challenge. 

The following are suggestive:

    •    Theorizing Open Infrastructures (OI): What are the theoretical underpinnings of openness in the context of digital knowledge infrastructures, their historical evolution, and the foundational principles that distinguish them from other infrastructure types? What analytical tools can help to analyze digital knowledge and data infrastructures, develop a critical stance, and draw key learnings from existing research?

    •    OI Development and “Infrastructuring” Openness: Providing empirical research on the notion of openness in the development of open digital knowledge infrastructures, highlighting successes, challenges, and lessons learned. Investigating practices of “infrastructuring” openness in the context of digital and data infrastructures, research communities, communing of civic data, and the welfare state.

    •    Governance of OI: Analyzing governance structures in open digital knowledge infrastructures, their effectiveness, challenges, and impacts on labor conditions, sustainability and scalability. Discussing modes of participation, the role of community engagement, and modes of collaboration and decision making in the development and maintenance of such infrastructures.

    •    OI, Public Policy and Regulation: Examining the intersection of open digital knowledge infrastructures and public policy, including regulatory challenges and opportunities for governmental collaboration. How are such infrastructures reflected in discourses on digital sovereignty and national interests?

    •    Open Data and Knowledge Sharing: How do digital infrastructures facilitate the sharing of data and knowledge and impact research, innovation, and public policy? Exploring the politics of opening data and knowledge infrastructures for the public good, opportunities and challenges in the opening of data from public and private sectors, practices of repurposing data for the common good.

    •    Political Economy of OI: Assessing the economic values inscribed in open digital knowledge infrastructures as well as their business models and economic impacts. What kind of resource can they become, how are they shaped by ideologies? What about their relationship with commercial actors, who is actively contributing to such infrastructures and who is benefitting? 

    •    Technological Challenges and Ethical Considerations: Exploring the technological hurdles and advancements in open/ing digital knowledge infrastructures, including scalability, interoperability, and resilience. Analyzing the creation of open infrastructures and digital platforms, open source software, standards, and licenses, metadata and open APIs. Delving into the ethical aspects of open digital knowledge infrastructures, including issues of justice, inclusion, privacy, data security, and the responsibility to various stakeholders.

    •    Democratic Potential and Impact of OI: How do open digital knowledge infrastructures facilitate democratic values, participation, and community-building? How does the opening of public sector data and infrastructures contribute to the fostering of the welfare state? What are the anti-democratic implications of open knowledge infrastructures and digital platforms and how to contain them?

    •    Impact and Evaluating OI: Analyzing the impact of open/ing digital infrastructures on educational systems, academic research, and the welfare state – including case studies of open-access publishing, open educational resources, and the opening of administrative data for the public good. How are open digital knowledge infrastructures assessed and evaluated and what kinds of audit regimes should be developed in the future?

    •    Global Perspectives and Cultural Contexts: Comparing open digital knowledge infrastructures across different cultural and geopolitical contexts, exploring how geo-political and cultural variations influence their development and adoption. How do open knowledge infrastructures and digital platforms be/come sites of activism, resistance and alternative imaginaries in different parts of the world? And how to foster social justice through the open/ing of digital knowledge infrastructures and platforms?

Key Dates 

Jan 31, 2024: Abstracts (500 words) due

March 1, 2024: Notification of acceptance

September 1, 2024: Chapters due to editors

October 1, 2024: Editors send out to peer review

November 30, 2024: Review deadline

January 31, 2025: final chapters submitted

Expected publication date: Spring 2025

Formats, Language and Open Access

In addition to original research chapters, the book is open to other forms of publishing, including but not limited to interviews, data visualisations and visual ephemera augmenting textual contributions. The book will be in English and Open Access without BPC for the authors. 

We are presently in negotiation with publisher De Gruyter

Contact email

book@openinfrastructures.net