The concept of ‘infrastructure’ is gaining purchase of late as an empirical and analytical
locus for social theory. Its rise has coincided with both the empirical proliferation
of new interface, media and digital sensor networks and an analytical sensibility
that attends to the complex, adaptive and emergent processes that lend epistemic continuity
and/or sustainability to social and biotic systems. Thus, there seems to be growing
consensus that the functional and ontological dimensions of such self-organized systems
are assembled together as relational ecologies. This talk looks at the work of open-source
guerrilla architectural collectives in Madrid and their involvement in the sustenance
of one such urban ecology. Open-source architecture presents a challenge to urban
systems, however, insofar as it unsettles the current material, legal, technical,
and socio-political conceptions of how infrastructures work. Opening the ‘source’
of an architectural project involves both making its designs available and re-sourcing
its social and infrastructural capacities. That is, architectural collectives struggle
to think and open anew – whilst simultaneously standardizing technical and documentary
legacies, as well devising pedagogies about – what and where the ‘sources’ of a project
might lie: its technical design systems, legal ritual, collaborative dynamics, governance
mechanisms, materials and resources, or social and political capacities. Such an ecology
of open sources has little time for conventional notions of knowledge, description,
epistemology or ontology. Sources constantly re-source themselves, now as materials,
now as media or iconographies, code, language, infrastructures, public spaces, archives,
persons, collectives, etc. The ecology is therefore always and everywhere a ‘beta’
version of itself. The talk concludes with a meditation about anthropology itself
entering the ecology of sources, and the larger implications of devising and working
with conceptual infrastructures in beta, in the city and beyond.
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