Infrastructuring interventions or intervening infrastructures?

by Katrien Dreessen, Liesbeth Huybrechts, Selina Schepers & Pablo Calderón Salazar

The role of interventions in the infrastructuring process.

Design as ‘infrastructuring’ approaches design as a long-term process of anticipation or envisioning of potential design (Björgvinsson, Ehn & Hillgren, 2012), often via the development of tools, techniques and processes that allow actors to deal with uncertainties that they encounter in participatory ways (DiSalvo, Clement & Pipek, 2013). Although ‘long-term participation’ and ‘intervention’ may appear to be contradictory, this article describes how interventions contribute to infrastructuring processes that address public space and public issues. Interventions in public space are often driven by a wish to reclaim the common right to it and regularly use a ‘hit-and-run tactic’ (Markussen, 2013). This article discusses the role that these (short-term and often disruptive) interventions can play in long-term participation (O’Neill & Doherty, 2010) and specifically their ways of making uncertainties tangible.

We analyse an infrastructuring process defined by on-going participatory interventions in Genk (BE). We discuss three series of interventions that explicitly shaped our ways of working in the infrastructuring processes, being (1) ‘Hack-a-thing’, (2) ‘FanLab’ (see: Figure 1) and (3) ‘The Other Market’. Using Latour’s framing of uncertainties (Huybrechts, Dreessen & Schepers, 2015), we illustrate how the interventions made uncertainties related to actors, actions and objects/matters tangible and how (long-term) participation was enhanced or obstructed in the process (cfr. the above-mentioned approach).

Our contribution takes on the form of an extended article and a live, participatory presentation of visualisations of the process, documenting how diverse constellations of actors, actions and matters of concern (Latour, 2005) take form and shift through the interventions over time. We specifically focus on the uncertainties that are associated with these constellations to gain an understanding of how interventions enhance or obstruct the infrastructuring process.


Katrien Dreessen (1980, Genk, Belgium) is a researcher at the research group Social Spaces (research unit ‘Inter-Actions’, Luca, school of arts/KULeuven), coordinator of FabLab Genk and teacher at Luca, school of Arts in Genk. She is currently involved in several projects that are situated on the intersection of design research, healthcare and open production. Furthermore, she is also conducting a Phd research on FabLabs and how these open workplaces can become places of infrastructuring.

Liesbeth Huybrechts (1979, Leuven, Belgium) is Postdoctoral researcher in the area of participatory design and spatial transformation processes in the research group Arck, University of Hasselt. She is involved in the research project Traders dealing with Participatory Design and Art in Public Space (www.tr-aders.eu). As a freelancer she is active in exhibitions, workshops, writing and in the master program Social Design, Design Academy Eindhoven. In the past, she taught in the Interaction Design Department and co-founded the research group Social Spaces (LUCA, KULeuven) exploring the social qualities of design and art.

Selina Schepers graduated in 2009 as a Master of Philosophy (mPhil) in Cultures of Arts, Science and Technology at the University of Maastricht, The Netherlands. Currently, she is coordinator of and researcher at research group Social Spaces. She coordinates several design research-related courses at Luca, school of Arts, campus C-mine. Since 2010, she coordinated and participated in various research projects such as ‘Open Garments’ (EU/FP7, www.open-garments.eu), ‘TRADERS’ (EU/FP7, www.tr-aders.eu), ‘MELoDiA’ (IWT/MIX) and ‘TraPIST’ (IWT/ICON).

Pablo Calderón Salazar (1985, Bogotá, Colombia) is a designer and researcher living in Brussels. He studied Industrial Design (bachelor level) at the Jorge Tadeo Lozano University of Bogotá, Colombia (2008) and Social Design (Master in Design) at the Design Academy Eindhoven (June 2013). He is currently conducting (since March 2014) a PhD in the Arts with the group Social Spaces at LUCA/KULeuven, in the wider context of the project TRADERS (Training Art and Design Researchers for Participation in Public Space). The essence of his practice lies in collaboration with local partners in the different contexts where his projects take place, where he empathically interprets the interests of different constituents, using dialogue as his main tool.