How flat exactly is (social) infrastructure?

Still toying with ideas about approaching management information systems from a lateral perspective, I am wondering how ‘flat’ an approach to regulation can/should become. With ‘flatness’ I am referring to the counter-scheme against ‘transcendent’ sociological approaches to the regulation of social life expressed by Latour and others (most beautifully and briefly, I think, Latour has expressed it here). What I am asking myself is how far the analytical levelling – thinking about governing, regulation, power, and so on in a lateral rather than hierarchical-levels-of-order manner – can be radicalized without, if you will, collateral damage to the empirical questions under study which in the case of management information systems (or ERP) clearly has something to do with power, hierarchies, and so on. In other words, how much can hierarchies be conceptually flattened without ceasing to be hiearchies?
This may be a general question when analyzing infrastructures. Do we need to be careful to translate every supposedly top-down relationship into a sequential ordering of steps, or into a route through a network of nodes? Or, conversely, is there a sense in which we should retain some role for hierarchies and levels of (social, technological, biological etc.) order?

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About Nicholas

Associate Professor of Sociology, Environmental Studies, and Science and Technology Studies at Penn State, Nicholas mainly writes about understanding the scientific study of states and, thus, it is namely about state theory. Given his training in sociology and STS, he takes a decidedly STS-oriented approach to state theory and issues of governance.

One thought on “How flat exactly is (social) infrastructure?

  1. <!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN"> <html> <head> <meta content="text/html; charset=UTF-8" http-equiv="Content-Type"> </head> <body bgcolor="#ffffff" text="#000000"> Analytically, I think this question is indeed very straightforward,?? as you can always become more reductionist. But there may also be a sense in which participants perform levels – making it (perhaps) plausible to redistribute analytical attention across levels of performances in following what exactly is going on. If, in other words, participants attend to levels (like for example, to both formal and informal layers of activity simultaneously), should we not attend to levels as well? I guess that mixes up somewhat analytical levels and levels of empirical performances.<br> <br></body></html>

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