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Bronislaw Szerszynski: Infrastructuring as a Planetary Phenomenon: Timescale Separation and Causal Closure in More-Than-Human Systems. [Abstract]

Building on recent work identifying how the infrastructures of human social and economic life themselves depend on the “natural infrastructure” of biogeochemical systems, I explore the idea that infrastructuring – involving causal relations between subsystems operating at different timescales – might be a strategy widely adopted by matter undergoing self-organization under planetary conditions. I analyze the concept of infrastructure as it is used to describe features of the human “technosphere” and identify the importance of a difference in timescales between supporting and supported structures and processes. I explore some examples of how the wider planet might be said to engage in timescale-distancing and infrastructuring, focusing in particular on examples from the hydrosphere and biosphere. I then turn to the question of how to explain infrastructuring, developing a neocybernetic account of infrastructuring as involving the separation of a system into subsystems at different timescales in mutual but asymmetrical causal relations. I conclude by exploring the implications of this approach for the way we think about planets in general and the human technosphere.

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