Digital Infrastructures and Economy International Symposium and Masterclasses

Digital Life Research Program 

3–5 November 2015

Western Sydney University Parramatta Campus

Event organizers: Ned Rossiter, Juan Francisco Salazar and Liam Magee

Digital media technologies of Internet communication and software coupled with supporting infrastructures of storage and transmission have resulted in the production, sharing and distribution of knowledge and culture on scales previously unseen in the history of human life. More recently, the rise of big data analytics associated with sensor technologies and the biometric monitoring of social, urban, industrial and ecological systems has seen the empirical being redefined by algorithmic operations. It is no surprise that finance capital and new economies of exchange are closely tied to many of these developments. Spot rates, for example, are hedged against the delivery times of shipping containers in the maritime industries. Health industries are flourishing with the widespread adoption of consumer self-tracking devices and the scramble for standards designed to subsume life into measures optimised for the sale of medical products. The quantified self has become the exemplary subject around which the design and distribution of a wide array of knowledges across life and labour is organised.

Within this maelstrom of change, knowledge orientates itself across public and private institutions, unbound from the university and its attendant ecologies of knowledge production. But while users have come to play a central role in the reorganisation of how knowledge is created, distributed and valorised, their influence on the infrastructures structuring and sustaining these knowledges has been especially limited. At the same time, the infrastructural dimension of digital economies is receiving increasing attention, from the shift to low-latency networks and centralised storage systems to the logistical technologies ensuring the synchronisation of networked activities.

Within such contexts, it makes sense to move outward from the user, now situated and redefined as a node of multiple infrastructures. Yet rather than focusing on this networked self, or the urban equivalent of Sassen's global city, this international symposium maps these overlapping infrastructures that constitute users as a new kind of economic and epistemological subject. Such an undertaking is no longer a matter of making visible the invisible. What needs to happen is an exploration of how the digital economy changes the way we understand and constitute infrastructure. To effectively address such concerns, the need to develop a conceptual idiom capable of comprehending the scope of digital infrastructures and their economies becomes all the more apparent: from anonymous grassroots activists in support of independent media to hackers able to control industrial infrastructures, from the anonymity of high-frequency trading that complicates the analyses of financial crises to the anonymity of users who prefer to cooperate in their exodus from the world of corporate communications infrastructures.

Cutting across sociology, media theory, cultural research, anthropology, science and technology studies, economic geography, computer science, urbanism and design, this two-day international symposium and masterclasses address topics such as the following:

  • Media infrastructures
  • Cultural infrastructures
  • Logistical infrastructures
  • Management infrastructures
  • Knowledge infrastructures
  • Finance infrastructures
  • Transactional infrastructures
  • Health infrastructures
  • Human rights infrastructures
  • Polar infrastructures
  • Post-planetary infrastructures

Participant numbers for both events are limited, so please be sure to register (details below). Registration is free.

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Digital Infrastructures and Economy Masterclasses 

Tuesday 3 November

Tomás Ariztía, Universidad Diego Portales, 'Researching Knowledge Making Practices in Market Settings: From Creative Spaces to Digital Infrastructures'

Time: 10.30am–12.30pm
 Venue: EB3.17, Parramatta South Campus, Western Sydney University

  • Registration has now closed

Akseli Virtanen, Robin Hood Minor Asset Management Cooperative, 'Finance as a Place of Creation: Hacking Finance Capital with Parasitical Algorithms'

Time: 2–4pm
Venue: EB3.17, Parramatta South Campus, Western Sydney University

  • Registration has now closed

Digital Infrastructures and Economy International Symposium 

Wednesday and Thursday 4–5 November

Day 1: EZ.G.36, Female Orphan School (west wing), Parramatta South Campus, Western Sydney University

Day 2: EB3.17, Parramatta South Campus, Western Sydney University

  • Registration has now closed

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Event Details | Masterclasses

Tomás Ariztía, Universidad Diego Portales

'Researching Knowledge Making Practices in Market Settings: From Creative Spaces to Digital Infrastructures'


This seminar focuses on discussing some methodological issues regarding doing fieldwork in knowledge spaces in markets. In particular, the seminar will present and discuss some of the strategies and devices I have used in order to deal with challenges that distributed knowledge practices and devices posit to an ethnographic approach. The first part of the seminar will consider a 30-40 minutes presentation of some of the research I have done on knowledge practices (with emphasis on my latter project on data mining/transactional data practices). This will be followed by an open discussion in terms of how to design, think and do fieldwork for researching knowledge in the digital age.


Tomás Ariztía (opens in a new window)is Associate Professor at the Department of Sociology at Diego Portales University, Chile. His research is concerned with Consumption Studies – particularly Social Studies of Marketing, Sustainable Consumption and energy – and Sociology of knowledge. He is particularly interested on how consumers are mobilized in marketing knowledge practices. He has conducted fieldwork in advertising agencies and marketing departments and is currently involved in a three year research project focused on comparing Big Data, Design Thinking and Market Research as different knowledge grammars through which social entities are enacted in markets. Recently he edited the book Produciendo lo social: usos de las ciencias sociales en el Chile reciente (Ediciones UDP, 2012), which explored the connections between social sciences and the production of social worlds.

Akseli Virtanen, Robin Hood Minor Asset Management Cooperative

'Finance as a Place of Creation: Hacking Finance Capital with Parasitical Algorithms'


Robin Hood Asset Management Cooperative (opens in a new window)is an experiment in the creation of new social and economic forms. It is an algorithmic hedge fund synthetically imitating the emerging conventions of the financial oligarchy at the U.S. stock market, assembled as a cooperative, and operating programs of common equity and protection of the common. In this workshop we try to open up some of the background thinking, some of the things we have learned, the dead ends we have met, and why it has become necessary for Robin Hood to now take on a new and more monstrous form – as a financial platform of the future. Finance is a place of creation. What new possibilities does appropriating and reengineering financial technologies together with the organizational possibilities of blockchain technology offer for today's workers, makers, co-creators, peers, crowds becoming new kind of economic operators?


Akseli Virtanen is a theorist of new political economy, born in Finland and currently based in Santa Cruz, California. He is a co-founder of Robin Hood Asset Management Cooperative, an activist hedge fund, currently in the process of taking on a new more monstrous form as a financial platform of the future. Akseli's recent books include Arbitrary Power: A Contribution Towards a Critique of Biopolitical Economy (n-1 Edições, forthcoming 2015).

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Event Details | Symposium


4 November – Symposium Day 1

10am – coffee/tea, registration

10.20–10.30am – Welcome: Professor Paul James, Director, Institute for Culture and Society
10.30am – Introductory comments: Ned Rossiter, Liam Magee, Juan Francisco Salazar
10.45am–12.15pm – Mark Burry, 'Gaudí, Cerdà and Big Data: Pre and Post Digital Infrastructure Challenges and Opportunities' 
12.15–1.15pm – lunch
1.15–2pm – Tanya Notley, 'Satellites as Human Rights Infrastructure'
2–3.30 pm – Justine Humphry, 'Infrastructures of Survival: New Relations of Inclusion and Exclusion in the Digital Reform of Health and Emergency Services'
3.30–4pm – afternoon tea/coffee
4–5.30pm – Tomás Ariztía, 'Consumer Databases as Practical Accomplishments'


5 November – Symposium Day 2
10am – coffee
10.15–11.45am – Akseli Virtanen, 'Social Architecture for Distributed Capital: Robin Hood 2.0'
11.45am–1.15pm – Laura Lotti, 'There is no Blockchain without Bitcoin: Toward a New Mode of Accounting (for) in Distributed Networked Economies'
1.15–2pm – lunch
2–3.30pm – Armin Beverungen, 'Managed by Machines? Enterprise Software, Corporate Power, Algorithmic Management'
3.30–4pm – afternoon tea/coffee
4–5.30pm – Juan Francisco Salazar, 'Polar Infrastructures'
5.30–6pm – Closing panel

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