Of Blooming Flowers and Multiple Sockets: The Role of Metaphors in the Politics of Infrastructural Work

  • Marcello Aspria
  • Marleen de Mul
  • Samantha Adams
  • Roland Bal

Abstract

We explore the role of two metaphors for innovation and infrastructure integration in the development of a regional patient portal. Our premise is that metaphors have real consequences for agenda setting and decision-making; we view them as operationalizations of sociotechnical imaginaries. Drawing on our formative study of the portal project, we focus on the generative character of metaphors and argue that they are constitutive elements of information infrastructures. While the two metaphors in our study helped to make imaginaries of ‘integrated’ and ‘personalized’ health care more definite, cognizable, and classifiable, they also concealed the politics of infrastructural work. We argue that the act of ‘spelling out’ metaphors can open up a space for new imaginaries and alternative strategies. With this study we aim to contribute to existing knowledge about infrastructural work, and to renew the interest among STS scholars for the role of discursive attributes in information infrastructures.

Keywords: metaphors, e-Health, information infrastructures