Cass, N., Schwanen, T. and Shove, E. (2018) ‘Infrastructures, intersections and societal transformations’, Technological Forecasting and Social Change.
There is renewed and increasing interest in understanding the part that infrastructures play in societal transformations, especially in response to the various challenges of climate change. Studies that focus on these issues tend to examine infrastructures in isolation from each other, and tend to work with evolutionary accounts of incremental change punctuated by short periods of radical innovation. This paper questions both these abstractions. Using four empirical cases, it directs attention to intersections between infrastructures at specific times and places, highlighting the dynamic qualities of infrastructures-in-use, and conceptualising societal transformations as outcomes of these intersections. Four forms of intersection are elaborated – co-constitution, adaptation and threading through, historical layering, and coexisting configurations. Instances of each are used to illustrate some of complex and often ambiguous processes through which infrastructures interact. The paper ends by outlining implications for future research and for interventions by policy-makers and others seeking to influence the ways in which infrastructures intersect.