Jurnal_Obduracy of the City_ Toward s Productive Fusion Between Technology Studies and Urban Studies

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Transcript  Science, Technology & Human Values online version of this article can be found at: DOI: 10.1177/0162243904271759 2005 30: 323 Science Technology Human Values  Anique Hommels StudiesStudying Obduracy in the City: Toward a Productive Fusion between Technology Studies and Urban  Published by: On behalf of:  Society for Social Studies of Science  can be found at: Science, Technology & Human Values  Additional services and information for Email Alerts: Subscriptions: Reprints: Permissions: Citations: What is This? - May 31, 2005Version of Record >>  by iwan saputra on September 6, 2012sth.sagepub.comDownloaded from   10.1177/0162243904271759Science,Technology,&HumanValuesHommels/FusingTechnologyStudiesandUrbanStudies Studying Obduracy in the City:Toward a Productive Fusion betweenTechnology Studies and Urban Studies Anique Hommels University of Maastricht  Thisarticledrawsthecityintothelimelightofsocialstudiesoftechnology.Consideringthatcitiesconsistofawiderangeoftechnologies,itisremarkablethatcitiesasanobject of research have so far have been relatively neglected in the field of technology studies.Thisarticlefocusesontheroleofobduracyinurbansociotechnicalchange,anissuethat,it is argued, has considerable importance for both students of the cities and the daily practiceoftownplannersandarchitects,and,atthesametime,formsanimportanttheo-retical debate in science, technology, and society (STS) studies. The article provides anoverview of theoretical conceptions of obduracy in both technology studies and urbanstudies and proposes a heuristic model for the analysis of this phenomenon.In this way,this article aims to contribute to the establishment of a common interdisciplinary playground for these disciplines.  Keywords:  obduracy; sociotechnical change; urban technology; urban studies;technology studies City building is a continuous, ongoing process: cities are in a process of being built and rebuilt all the time; they are never finished but always underconstruction, always in a process of being realized. Many plans to redesignurbanspaceassumeanalmostinfinitemalleabilityoftheexistingurbancon-figuration. Urban historian Josef Konvitz claimed for example that “nothingmay look less likely to change in a radical way than the status quo in citybuilding,butnothingelsemaybemorelikely”(Konvitz1985,188).Itseemscounterintuitive to change cities,but nevertheless they change continuously.But despite the fact that cities are considered to be dynamic and flexible 323AUTHOR’S NOTE: I would like to thank Wiebe Bijker and Karin Bijsterveld and the anony-mous referees for their valuable comments on earlier versions of this article. Science, Technology, & Human Values, Vol. 30 No. 3, Summer 2005 323-351DOI: 10.1177/0162243904271759© 2005 Sage Publications  by iwan saputra on September 6, 2012sth.sagepub.comDownloaded from   spaces, numerous examples illustratethatitisvery difficultto radicallyaltera city’s design: once in place, urban structures become fixed, obdurate. As aconsequence, urban artifacts that are remnants of earlier planning decisions,the logic of which is no longer applicable, may prove to be annoying obsta-cles for those who aspire to bring about urban innovation.The issue of obduracy and change informs one of the current theoreticaldebatesinscience,technology,andsociety(STS)studies. 1 Incontrasttoear-lier STS studies that focused on the early stages of technological develop-ment, I propose to concentrate on conceptualizations of the process thatinvolve the negotiations and attempts at undoing the sociotechnical statusquoinacity,changingthetaken-for-grantednessofitsreality,andmakingitsobduracyflexible.Thisarticledrawsthecityintothelimelightofsocialstud-ies of technology. At the same time, it is clear that the issue of obduracy andurban change belongs to one of the key concerns of both urban scholars andplanningpractitionersasarchitectsandurbanplanners.Therefore,itisinter-esting to use the issue of obduracy as a focal point in the exploration of thequestion of how technology studies and urban studies might benefit fromeach other. Evidently, for a proper understanding of the links between theobduracyoftechnologyandurbanredesignprocesses,itisimperativetocon-ceptualize the relationship between technological developments and urbanprocesses. Therefore, I will first of all address the question of to what extentexisting theories of technology in STS and urban studies can be relevant forthe analysis of such a large technological artifact as the city. Secondly, I willreview various approaches in both technology studies and urban studies tothe issue of obduracy and change in the urban context, and propose aheuris-tic model for studying the role of obduracy in urban sociotechnical changethat is based on these two fields of research. Technology and the City Studying cities makes clear how much our daily lives are pervaded bytechnologies. Roads, buildings, bridges, tunnels, transportation facilities,and communication systems all are integral elements of our contemporarypacked and cluttered expanding urban spaces. Cities,viewed as gigantic liv-ing organisms, embody the greatest concentration of technical networks.Urban historians were among the first to acknowledge the importance of technology in the city. As Joel Tarr and Gabriel Dupuy pointed out, Today, what we call the  urban infrastructure  provides the technological “sin-ews”ofthemodernmetropolitanarea:itsroad,bridgeandtransitnetworks;its 324 Science, Technology, & Human Values  by iwan saputra on September 6, 2012sth.sagepub.comDownloaded from   waterandsewerlinesandwaste-disposalfacilities; anditspowerandcommu-nication systems. These “sinews” guide and facilitate urban functioning andurban life in a multitude of ways. . . . The infrastructure includes not only net-works but also structures and machines. (Tarr and Dupuy 1988a, xiii) LewisMumford,urbanhistorianandhistorianoftechnology,wasamongthefirsttoemphasizetherelationshipbetweenthehistoricaldevelopmentofcit-ies and the invention of “megamachines”—invisible systems that consist of interchangeable mechanical, institutional,and human parts and thatare cen-trallyorganizedandcontrolled. 2 Hearguedthatthedevelopmentofcitiesandthe flourishing of the megamachine are indissolubly connected: the urbanenvironment was a precondition for the development of the megamachine,and the city, in turn, was made possible only by the invention of the machine(Mumford 1966, 231; Mumford [1965] 1973, 15). Moreover, in twentieth-century literature, film, and science, the city as a manufactured, artificialspace became a standard theme (Williams 1990). 3 Itistherefore surprising thatinSTSsolittleattentionhasbeenpaidtothecity—neithertothecitypersenor tothecityasastrategicresearchsite. 4 Inafairlyrecentarticlein TechnologyandCulture ,JulieJohnson-McGrathnotedthat “only a handful of book-length works have addressed the shape andshaping of urban technology” (Johnson-McGrath 1997, 691). Simon Guy,Stephen Graham, and Simon Marvin (1997, 193) posited that “since LewisMumford’ and urban history . . . only a few urban historians have attempted tounderstand how cities and technical networks co-evolve.” They explainedthislackofattentionfortechnicalnetworksinthecity,suchassewersystems,with reference to the “taken for grantedness” of these systems—they havebecome“blackboxed.”Althoughcitiesdependverymuchonthefunctioningofthesenetworks, theyarefrequently invisible,whichiswhytheytendtobeignored (Guy, Graham, and Marvin 1997). 5 They only seem to attractattention when they fail.Studies on large technical systems (LTS) are primarily geared toward theroleoftechnologicalnetworkslikeelectricity,transport,andwastenetworks.The city as such is hardly mentioned, however. The authors appear mainlyinterested in how these networks were built and how the various actors took partinthedevelopmentofnewtechnologies.Technologicalsystemsandnet-works serve as the basic category of analysis in these studies. Rather thanbeingthe  focus ,thecityfunctionsasamere locus inthisresearch. 6 Althoughthe founding father of the system approach in the history of technology,Thomas Hughes, situated his analysis of electric power systems in cities, 7 many of his followers have not elaborated on this theme. 8 Hommels / Fusing Technology Studies and Urban Studies 325  by iwan saputra on September 6, 2012sth.sagepub.comDownloaded from 


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