The good infrastructures lab (ENVI)


The good infrastructures lab (ENVI)

Good infrastructure. Photo
Foto: Stegastein, Aurlandsfjorden, CC Sharealike by Domenico Convertini 


Large scale infrastructures are the backbone of modern societies, both in symbolic and in practical terms. During the heroic system building of the 19th and 20th centuries more and bigger infrastructures were seen as guarantee for a better life for all. However, since the 1970s modern infrastructures have increasingly become problematic for what they do to people and their environments. In the 2020s, the perfect storm of pandemic, new wars, and ongoing climate change have revealed the real vulnerability of the basic infrastructures that provide our daily food, mobility, housing, communication, entertainment, energy, and consumer goods. Rethinking and rebuilding infrastructures, it is now clear, must go beyond efforts to fix the existing ones through better technology and new business models.  

In theory, modern infrastructures are amazingly complex entities that weave together large networks of individuals, institutions, big and small artifacts, animals, plants, etc. They are the networks of pipes, wires and tunnels underground, the buildings in which modern humans live and learn, the bridges that they cross or the facilities that produce the food that they eat. These entities inhabit the socio-technical background of everyday life, which means that they are always available, they deliver their services consistently without failure, and they free individuals from having to use their time thinking about their subsistence. In practice, however, infrastructures privilege some social groups and disadvantage others, they are contested, destroy livelihoods slowly or quickly, and they fail regularly in small and big ways. They are built to be controlled and to control their users, rather than to be cared for and to care for.  

The good infrastructure lab conducts research on the tension between potentials of modern infrastructures to enable 'the good life for all' and their practical performance. The basic perspective enabling our work is a double infrastructural inversion: The first inversion, proposed and applied in the work done in the 1990s by Bowker, Star and others, is a Gestalt switch in which the background of infrastructures is turned into a 'figure' that establishes infrastructures as a matter of concern. Building on ethnographies of infrastructures, we add to this a second inversion, in which infrastructures are analysed as performed 'from below', i.e., through the experiences, interpretations, actions, needs, and desires of their users. These analyses of 'infrastructural inversion in the wild' and 'user-driven infrastructuring' contribute to studies of technology end-use and to infrastructure studies and enable us to rethink and build better infrastructures. 

Currently, the lab members, in addition to working with their projects, conduct a living lab on circular university furniture together. The lab continuously welcomes applications for research stays.

Ongoing Projects

Ongoing projects

2018-2025: FME Research Centre on Zero Emission Neighbourhoods in Smart Cities (ZEN), funded by RCN, cross-cutting research area "end user research" (X4) and ZEN living labs (WP6) 

2022-2026: Sustainable digital transformations, funded by NTNU 

2022-2026: Digital user participation in sustainable municipal planning, PhD project funded by NTNU (as part of the Sustainable digital transformations project) 

2022-2025: IClimaBuilt, living labs (WP6), funded by H2020 

2022-2025: ARV funded by Horizon Europe , living labs (WP3) 

2021-2024: syn.ikia, (WP2 & WP7) 

2020-2025: Nurturing productive cultures of dense and flexible work spaces, PhD project funded by Campus of the future 

2020-2024: Communicating science in climate mitigation in the built environment, PhD project funded by RCN (as part of ZEN) 

2019-2023: LIFEBOTS exchange, funded by H2020 

2018-2022: Frontiers in the Norwegian Circular Economy Transition, PhD project funded by NTNU Sustainability

Recent publications

Recent publications

Berker, Thomas, and Liana Müller. “Seduction, Caution, Fight: Media Framing of Research-Based Expertise in Norwegian Print Media Coverage of Low Energy Buildings (2005–2012).” 2022, September 30. Public Understanding of Science. doi: 10.1177/09636625221122293

Woods, Ruth, and Thomas Berker. “Homelife in a Norwegian Forest: A Rural Approach to the Sustainable Transition.” 2022, December 9. Sustainability: Science, Practice and Policy 18(1): 636–50. doi: 10.1080/15487733.2022.2108254

Ortega Alvarado, Isaac Arturo, Thomas Edward Sutcliffe, Thomas Berker, and Ida Nilstad Pettersen. 2021. “Emerging Circular Economies: Discourse Coalitions in a Norwegian Case.” Sustainable Production and Consumption 26:360–72. doi: 10.1016/j.spc.2020.10.011

Sutcliffe, Thomas Edward, and Thomas Berker. 2021. “A Norwegian Circular Economy? Protestant Visions of an Alternative to Mass Consumerism.” Reparieren, Selbermachen Und Kreislaufwirtschaften: Alternative Praktiken Für Nachhaltigen Konsum, 79–94. doi: 10.1007/978-3-658-31569-6_5ink

Woods, Ruth, and Judith Thomsen. 2021. “Unboxing Buildings: Engaging with Occupants during Design, Testing and Use.” Sustainability 13(6):3201. doi: 10.3390/su13063201

Woods, Ruth, and Thomas Berker. 2021. “Norwegian Pilots: Navigating the Technological Logic of Sustainable Architecture.” in Architectural Anthropology. Exploring lived space, edited by M. Stender, C. Bech-Danielson, and A. Landsverk Hagen. Routledge. book ISBN: 9780367555757

Berker, Thomas, and Ruth Woods. 2020. “Identifying and Addressing Reverse Salients in Infrastructural Change. The Case of a Small Zero Emission Campus in Southern Norway.” International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education 21(7):1625–40. doi: 10.1108/IJSHE-12-2019-0354

Selected previous projects

Selected previous projects

2019-2022: Energy Social sciences & Humanities Innovation Forum Targeting the SET-Plan (Energy-Shifts), funded by H2020 

2019-2022: Territorial responsible research and innovation through the involvement of local R&I actors (TeRRItoria), funded by H2020 

2013-2017: Methodologies for Improvement of Non-residential buildings' Day-to-day Energy efficiency Reliability (MINDER), funded by RCN 

2009-2017: The Norwegian Research Centre on Zero Emission Buildings (ZEB), WP4, "use, operation and implementation, funded by RCN 

2009-2012: Towards carbon neutral settlements, funding RCN 

2008-2010: Paradoxes of design, funding RCN