CRESR Seminar - Redeploying urban infrastructure

Start date: 
Wed, 16/05/2018
Closing date: 
Wed, 16/05/2018
Sheffield Hallam University, City Campus, Stoddart Building, Room 7139
Event contact: 
Ian Wilson & Ben Pattison (Tel: 0114 225 3073)


Jonathan Rutherford
Paris Est University and University of Sheffield


In the peripheral areas of European cities that are not (yet) served by traditional centralized infrastructure, local officials are questioning the relevance of network extensions. In these contexts of low population density, actors and authorities are weighing up the options, between on the one hand the possible return on investment from network deployment, and on the other hand the technical difficulties and additional costs that would result from laying the necessary cables and pipelines. This is especially true for wastewater and energy (non-electric) systems, but also in some cases for water supply. These areas that lie beyond the network may be included in future extension plans or may be more dependent on alternative forms of service delivery, which in some cases may provide more satisfactory or relevant results. The production of suburban infrastructure configurations is, however, always a political process shaped by the interests, values and resources of particular actors.

This presentation draws on research conducted in peripheral municipalities of Stockholm County in Sweden on infrastructure forms, planning and politics in a context of shifting suburban demographics, lifestyles and techno-economic constraints. I start from a map of Stockholm County showing a large blue mass of centralized water and wastewater networked infrastructures in dense urban core areas surrounded by extremely fragmented patches of ‘other’ systems in much of the outer peripheral areas where access to networked water infrastructures is far less prevalent. What is infrastructure therefore in these outer areas? How do households access water and wastewater services? Under what conditions, according to which factors? How do municipalities plan for or anticipate suburban and infrastructural development? Beyond (or before) networked urbanism are ‘other’ existing socio-technical configurations adapted to situated suburban contexts of planning, finance, materiality and technicity, and ways of living/inhabiting these areas.


Jonathan Rutherford is a senior researcher at LATTS (Laboratoire Techniques, Territoires et Sociétés), a leading social science research centre at Paris Est University and the Ecole des Ponts engineering school. He is also currently a visiting research fellow at the Urban Institute, University of Sheffield, UK. His research is broadly concerned with unpacking the processes and politics of urban socio-technical change. Drawing on his background in geography (BA and MA Durham, UK) and urban planning (PhD Newcastle, UK), but also his current position within an engineering school, it critically analyses the material production of contemporary urban spaces through the technologies and infrastructures (telecommunications, energy, water and sanitation) that are deployed in and between them. He uses a socio-technical and systemic approach that recognises the intertwined relations between technological development and socio-political interactions in the development of cities. He has guest edited recent special issues on urban energy for Energy Policy (2015) and Urban Studies (2014), is the co-editor of the recent Routledge book Beyond the Networked City (2016) and is currently writing a monograph on urban infrastructure under contract with Palgrave Macmillan.

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