University of Oulu

Karasti, H. & Blomberg, J. Comput Supported Coop Work (2018) 27: 233.

Studying infrastructuring ethnographically

Saved in:
Author: Karasti, Helena1; Blomberg, Jeanette2
Organizations: 1INTERACT Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu , Finland
2IBM Research, San Jose, CA , USA
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.4 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2018
Publish Date: 2018-07-28


This paper is motivated by a methodological interest in how to investigate information infrastructures as an empirical, real-world phenomenon. We argue that research on information infrastructures should not be captive to the prevalent method choice of small-scale and short-term studies. Instead research should address the challenges of empirically studying the heterogeneous, extended and complex phenomena of infrastructuring with an emphasis on the necessarily emerging and open-ended processual qualities of information infrastructures. While existing literature identifies issues that make the study of infrastructuring demanding, few propose ways of addressing these challenges. In this paper we review characteristics of information infrastructures identified in the literature that present challenges for their empirical study. We look to current research in the social sciences, particularly anthropology and science and technology studies (STS) that focus on how to study complex and extended phenomena ethnographically, to provide insight into the study of infrastructuring. Specifically, we reflect on infrastructuring as an object of ethnographic inquiry by building on the notion of “constructing the field.” Recent developments in how to conceptualize the ethnographic field are tied both to longstanding traditions and novel developments in anthropology and STS for studying extended and complex phenomena. Through a discussion of how dimensions of information infrastructures have been addressed practically, methodologically, and theoretically we aim to link the notion of constructing the ethnographic field with views on infrastructuring as a particular kind of object of inquiry. Thus we aim to provide an ethnographically sensitive and methodologically oriented “opening” for an alternative ontology for studying infrastructuring ethnographically.

see all

Series: Computer supported cooperative work (CSCW)
ISSN: 0925-9724
ISSN-E: 1573-7551
ISSN-L: 0925-9724
Volume: 27
Issue: 2
Pages: 233 - 265
DOI: 10.1007/s10606-017-9296-7
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 113 Computer and information sciences
Funding: Karasti acknowledges the funding by Velux Visiting Professor Program of Villum Foundation and the generosity of Prof. Jesper Simonsen that made possible to work on this article as Guest Professor at the Department of People and Technology, Roskilde University, Denmark during 2015-2016. In addition, Karasti acknowledges Academy of Finland funded research project ‘Multi-scoped Infrastructuring’ #285903 that has provided support for finalizing the article in 2016-2017. Blomberg acknowledges the support of IBM Research, particularly the Cloud and Mobile Enterprise Research group, for allowing her time to work on this article.
Copyright information: © Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018. This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Comput Supported Coop Work. The final authenticated version is available online at: