Photo by Franck V..

Can an infrastructure be evil? The short pieces in this Theorizing the Contemporary series, which were originally commissioned for the 2016 Society for Social Studies of Science conference in Barcelona, explore cases of infrastructure that suggest some answers. The contributors reflect on information and communication infrastructures that prohibit or frustrate participation rather than extend it, or that support inequality and racism rather than trying to neutralize it, or that facilitate closure rather than extending openness.

Posts in This Series

Introduction: Evil Infrastructures

Introduction: Evil Infrastructures

Throughout the comic-book life of Superman, there has been a character called Bizarro, who was created by a reversing ray that inverted all the qualities of the... More

Beneath the Clouds, the Beach

Beneath the Clouds, the Beach

What you see is an experiment in mapping information infrastructures from above. Our target is the system of undersea Internet cable landing stations and data c... More

Evil Intermediation Platforms

Evil Intermediation Platforms

A political-cultural perspective on the sociology of digital intermediation platforms interrogates what a particular set of social arrangements implies about re... More

Public Schools and Surveillance

Public Schools and Surveillance

The transformation of the core instructional infrastructures of public education from a collection of chiefly analog materials—people, loose-leaf paper, glue, d... More

All Citizens are Bastards

All Citizens are Bastards

In April 2014, the websites TechDirt and BoingBoing reported that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department had partnered with Citizen Global and Amazon Web S... More

Bad Data

Bad Data

In 2014, the death of Michael Brown (an eighteen-year-old unarmed African American man killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri) reignited widespread co... More

Tor: The Evil Within

Tor: The Evil Within

Tor (The Onion Router) is a digital infrastructure that has been persistently taken to task by the media for its evilness. While it makes anonymous Internet nav... More

Evil Scholarly Publishing

Evil Scholarly Publishing

Social media platforms for academics, such as Academia.edu or ResearchGate, are spaces where millions of scholars share their research and construct themselves ... More

Necessary Evils

Necessary Evils

Somerset’s scrapyards become visible under two sets of circumstances. The first is when an “open burn,” as residents call them, demands the attention of the loc... More

Genes for Racists?

Genes for Racists?

What happens when white supremacists take genetic ancestry tests (GAT)? One might think that they would avoid GAT, since genetics has decisively shown the commo... More

Seeing Evil Differently

Seeing Evil Differently

Throughout 2015, the German public witnessed hatred in its diverse forms and expressions taking over comment sections of German online newspapers, as well as pu... More

All Your Base are Belong to Us: Gamergate and Infrastructures of Online Violence

All Your Base are Belong to Us: Gamergate and Infrastructures of Online Violence

Misogynistic online harassment is facilitated by material, human, informational, and rhetorical infrastructures. Orchestrated campaigns to punish, shame, threat... More

Shady Cultures

Shady Cultures

Search engine optimization (SEO) consultants do not have the best of reputations. Variously called spammers, evildoers, and opportunists, they help their client... More