Funny how stuff comes up and then is echoed. At dinner tonight I was asked about how I happened to do dissertation research in Nova Scotia, and that led to the tale of how in the late 1960s I’d wanted to return to Sarawak to study the effects of infrastructure projects on communities and regions, but at that time there was no interest in and certainly no money to support such research. So here’s an interesting post from Doc Searls, Rethinking out loud about infrastructure:
I’m here to suggest that two overlapping subjects — infrastructure and internet — are not well understood, even though both are made by humans and can be studied within the human timescale. The term “infrastructure” has been in common use only since the 1970s. While widely used, there are relatively few books about the subject itself. I’d say, in fact, that is more a subject in many fields than a field in itself. And I think it needs to be. Same with the Internet. Look it up on Google and see how many different definitions you get. Yet nothing could be more infrastructural without being physical, which the Internet is not.
Doc links to Stephen Lewis on The Etymology of Infrastructure and the Infrastructure of the Internet which notes that
Infrastructure indeed entered the English language as a loan word from French in which it had been a railroad engineering term. A 1927 edition of the Oxford indeed mentioned the word in the context of “… the tunnels, bridges, culverts, and ‘infrastructure work’ of the French railroads.” After World War II, “infrastructure” reemerged as in-house jargon within NATO, this time referring to fixed installations necessary for the operations of armed forces and to capital investments considered necessary to secure the security of Europe.
My own use of the term had specifically to do with consequences of what the 1960s labelled as Development, essentially the first steps toward the social and economic transformations that were eventually labelled as Globalization. Much more to say about all of that…