providing infrastructure vs. using it

The other day I learned that here in the library at the Uni in Pilsen you can book really nice glass rooms for yourself or for student groups. Additionally you can get a projector and also a laptop should you need one, all free of charge. That’s quite cool and I found myself wanting to use it without knowing what to use it for! :) Which is a reaction I am sure I am not the only one having from time to time? It made me think about these two distinctly different (opposite?) modes of mental operations: providing, securing or enhancing infrastructure vs. just using it to create or do something.
Setting up the structure of a shared Dropbox folder really well, getting a membership card for something, paying an annual subscription… these kind of things I really enjoy sometimes and find myself in an almost obsessive mode of improving infrastructure for myself or others.

Ok, it’s actually ridiculously spoiled to call these things infrastructure as this term is usually used for bigger systems and networks like the water and energy supply network of a country, the roads, the railways, the health system, the educational system and so on. Of course the infrastructure I am referring to above is 100% depending on this big-I Infrastructure.

Let’s look at some synonyms. How about space, canvas or container for infrastructure? Creation or content is what happens within it and which is using and depending on it? And of course there is a blurry boundary between the two. In many cases creations turn into something to build on, that makes them an infrastructure again and so on.

An overly sophisticated infrastructure can certainly intimidate the creation that is supposed to happen with/in it. In a sense of: who am I to create something with all these amazing tools in these amazing spaces that I am provided with. On the other hand, obstacles in bad structures can turn into slingshots for things to crystallize.

What you see often is that companies offer structures and spaces where ‘anything’ is allowed to happen. But actually the space is by means of its very architecture bent towards certain hidden or outspoken goals of the providers. Or think of the interplay of space and creation in competitions companies might offer – often they are so carefully orchestrated by the marketing department that you just get the impression it doesn’t matter at all what kind of content is being created because by the frames it was pre-determined already very heavily and the following celebration with photo and quote of the winner is absolutely interchangeable and served only the purpose of publicity.

Look at this very post. The infrastructure is wordpress, my blog, my history with this blog, my mental outlet of writing here now and then… eventually all that is enabling me to write her. The content is this (little ordered) stream of thoughts poured into the format of a post. After publishing it becomes an actual ‘post’, somewhat objectified, some entity on its own to relate to… so part of the infrastructure of ‘previous posts’ that i’ll be building on with the next one, somehow.

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Benjamin Aaron Degenhart

Currently pursuing a Masters in Computational Science and Engineering at TU Munich.

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