***** To join INSNA, visit http://www.sfu.ca/~insna/ ***** In case it may interest someone. Best, Ainhoa de Federico Urban Vulnerability and Network Failure: Constructions and Experiences of Emergencies, Crises and Collapse CALL FOR ABSTRACTS An ESRC-Sponsored International Seminar jointly hosted by SURF, University of Salford and GURU, University of Newcastle Manchester, United Kingdom, 29-30 April 2004 Rationale In these times of 'globalisation' cities are being powerfully shaped by their relationships with socio-technical networks and infrastructures. These organise, and mediate, the distribution of people, goods, services, information, wastes, capital, and energy between multiple scales within and between urban regions. The contemporary urban process, and contemporary social power, thus, more than ever, involve complex 'cyborg' liaisons and multiple, distanciated connections. These straddle many scales and link bodies, places, and institutions continuously with more or less distant elsewheres. By making possible a myriad of mobilities such infrastructures remake the spaces and times of urban life in the process. On the one hand, the everyday life and ideology of the modern city is dependent on the seamless and continuous functioning, together, of a vast array of functioning technical systems(although, for vast numbers of urbanites in the global South, the reality is often of little connectivity and worse reliability). On the other hand, large swathes of contemporary corporate, state, and military power centres on the construction, maintenance, legitimation and protection of vast arrays of extended technological systems. Strung out across the world, and configured carefully to support the 'glocal' geographies of power and connectivity of contemporary capitalism, these network spaces - fibre optic networks, airport and airline spaces, Just-in-Time logistics systems, E-commerce and transactional flows, transnational energy systems, and so on -- are critical strategic supports to neoliberal globalisation. Linking up, and mediating, key spaces and divisions of labour reliably, quickly and seamlessly, the physical, energy, water and informational infrastructures that sustain contemporary capitalism are perhaps the most critical strategic supports of contemporary global capitalism. A widening range of iconic infrastructure collapses serve as opportunities to learn about the cultural, political, social and material dimensions of the importance of infrastructural connection in contemporary urban, and geopolitical, life. Since the early 1990s, to name but a few, iconic collapsese and failures have included the Montreal ice storm, the Auckland power blackout, the gas attack on the Tokyo underground, the Sydney drought, the California energy crisis, the Chicago heat wave, the failure of Hong Kong airport's freight system, the September 11th attacks, and the 'Lovebug' virus. The infrastructural devastation of countless urban wars also needs to be considered here. As seamless and 24 hour flows and connections become ever-more critical for capitalist urbanism, however, so massive political, discursive and material resources are being devoted to try and reduce the supposed vulnerabilities that these systems exhibit to collapse, malfunctioning, or attack. This is especially so when the September 11th and Anthrax attacks, in particular, demonstrated that mobility systems, themselves, can be appropriated as 'terrorist' weapons. 'Resilience', and 'critical infrastructure protection', are ubiquitous buzz words in these times of politically constructed moral panic, continuous states of emergency, and the ongoing Bush-led 'war on terror'. Huge resources and efforts are now being devoted by States, infrastructure corporations, the military, urban infrastructure agencies, and corporate capital to reducing the supposed vulnerability of telecommunications, transport, logistics, transaction, electricity, and utilities systems to technical failure, sabotage, natural disasters or the failures caused by the reduced built in back-up that often comes with liberalised markets. The glaring fragility, and low reliability, of many computer-mediated communications and infrastructure systems is a particular focus of concern here. Examples include government programmes to protect critical infrastructure, commercial services for network back up, and military (and terrorist groups') interest in the disrupting of adversaries' infrastructure networks. Civil defence programmes designed to increase cities' resilience to attack and targeting, and so on, are also reaching unprecedented levels. As Tim Luke has observed, networked connections and collapses also form a critical focus of cultural politics. Narratives and discourses of failed flow and connection stalk many underground and dystopian scenes and genres of culture. Contemporary urban culture is full of accounts which reveal a fascination with such moments of what he calls 'decyborganisation'. This is because they reveal, however fleetingly, the utter reliance of modern urban life on distanciated flow and interaction. The cultural narratives and representations that surround the failure and collapse of networked infrastructures are a key aspect of their social importance. Conference Aim and Objective The core aim of this conference is to explore the ways in which reactions to, and experiences of, the collapse of technical and networked infrastructures within and between cities are constructed, experienced, imagined, represented, and contested. We seek in particular to explore these themes under conditions of growing infrastructural stress, re-regulation, globalisation, increasing concerns with failure, the changing geopolitical situation surrounding the 'war on terror', and the strong fascination for infrastructural collapse within contemporary culture. By bringing together researchers representing a range of disciplines, including geography, history, sociology, critical theory, development studies, political economy, geopolitics, surveillance and defence studies, the objective is to stimulate interdisciplinary discussion and collaboration that examines the meaning of connectivity and collapse in contemporary urban life, politics, governance, and culture. Seminar Themes (1) Conceptualising 'Cyborg' Urbanisation: How can urban, social and critical theory conceptualise the socio-technologies of connection, resilience, mobility, and collapse in contemporary cities ? (2) Urban Vulnerability and Network Failures: Constructions and Experiences of Emergencies, Crises and Collapse How do different disciplines construct concepts of urban vulnerability and network failure ? How does network stress and failure operate materially and how is it represented politically and culturally ? Why, how and where do technical networks collapse? What can be learnt about the discursive, economic or material role of technical connections in a globalised context by studying what happens when connections fail ? How does the governance of cities, spaces and networked infrastructure intersect in various contexts to address (and exploit ?) perceptions of stress and risk. How are such politics shaped by broader political economies of globalisation, mobility, flow and re-regulation ? How are corporate and popular fears of, and vulnerabilities to, the failure of connectivity addressed in such processes of governance ? (3) Networked Collapses as States of Emergency : What can be learnt from in-depth case studies of instances of network failures or collapse ? What happens when the normalisation of flow, mobility and connection breaks down ? What social, economic, and cultural coping mechanisms and innovations are developed to deal with the collapse ? How do political and governance coalitions at various scales, in states, cities and network spaces, respond to failure ? What are the longer term political, economic or cultural consequences of network failure ? How are crises and collapse in infrastructures, and wider processes of 'de-cyborgisation,' represented in contemporary culture ? (4) Networked Collape, Security, and Organised Violence How do various state and non-state militaries and target and destroy adversaries' infrastructure networks? In what ways are national, homeland and urban 'security' strategies, and critical infrastructure protection policies, being reforged to address, or exploit, fears of networked collapse ? What political economic transitions do such strategies support? What discursive, and linguistic constructions do such political strategies rely on ? Beyond the hype what is the real scope of 'cyberwar' ? What strategies and techniques are used? How effective, or widespread, is such 'network-based' warfare ? How does it relate to the current geopolitical position (dominated by a single 'hyperpower' pursuing a 'war on terror' without apparent end to further its geopolitical interests in the Middle East and Central Asia)? Abstract Submission Please submit a 250 words abstract to Steve Graham [log in to unmask] and Simon Marvin [log in to unmask] before September 1st 2003. Papers will be required for pre-circulation before the seminar that will be hosted in central Manchester, United Kingdom in April 2004. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Stephen Graham e-mail [log in to unmask] Professor of Urban Technology Telephone +44(0) 191 222 6808 Global Urban Research Unit (GURU) Fax +44(0) 191 222 8811 School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape 3rd Floor, Claremont Tower University of Newcastle upon Tyne Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU, U.K. Global Urban Research Unit (GURU) http://www.ncl.ac.uk/guru Surveillance and Society Web Journal http://www.surveillance-and-society.org/ +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ -- Ainhoa de Federico de la Rúa PhD candidate at Université des Sciences et Technologies de Lille (France) Universidad Pública de Navarra (Spain) Currently Marie Curie Fellow at the ICS-Groningen (The Netherlands): ICS Grote Rozenstraat 31, kmr. 104 9712 TG Groningen The Netherlands Office Tel: +31(0)50-363.62.01 e-mail: [log in to unmask] or [log in to unmask] GARES, Groupe d'Analyse des Réseaux, Espaces et Structures Sociales: Groupe of Analysis of Social Networks, Structures and Spaces: http://www.univ-lille1.fr/gares/ - site web _____________________________________________________________________ SOCNET is a service of INSNA, the professional association for social network researchers (http://www.sfu.ca/~insna/). 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