Guest Editors: Helena Karasti, Florence Millerand, Christine M. Hine, Geoffrey C. Bowker
Submission deadline: October 19, 2014

In recent decades we have witnessed important changes in research and knowledge production. Whether these changes are promoted as a transformative force enabling new forms of investigation or perceived as buttressing existing forms of research, they are associated with developments in information technologies and infrastructures. These developments aim to pull people together, supporting distributed collaboration or facilitating new joint activities and endeavors across domains, fields, institutions, and geographies. They offer new opportunities for the sharing and connecting of information and resources – data, code, publications, computing power, laboratories, instruments, and major equipment. They often bring together a diversity of actors, organizations and perspectives from, for instance, academia, industry, business, and general public. The social, material, technical, and political relations of research and knowledge production are changing through digitalization of data, communication and collaboration, virtualization of research communities and networks, and infrastructuring of underlying systems, structures and services. These emerging phenomena participate in ongoing transitions in the scholarly arena, and in society in general: traditional ways of doing research may be challenged and knowledge production may become more distributed and broader in participants. These phenomena have been cast under several labels such as big science, data-driven science, networked science, open science, Digital Humanities, and science 2.0. Other terms used are: e-Science, e-Social Science, e-Research, e-Infrastructure, and cyberinfrastructure.

In the STS community the study of infrastructures has roots in the history of Large Technical Systems (Hughes 1983, 1989). The seminal work of Star and Ruhleder (1994, 1996), studying an early infrastructure for scientific collaboration, provided a first conceptualization of infrastructure as a contextualized “relation” rather than a “thing”, and emphasized the situated practical work of developing and using infrastructures. During the following two decades, the early studies and concepts became widely used to inform new infrastructure studies and developments in a variety of contexts (Edwards et al. 2007).

Several workshops, conference sessions and theme-specific conferences have been held since. Journal special issues have been published, for instance in Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication (2007), Journal of the Association for Information Systems (2009) and The Computer Supported Collaborative Work Journal (2006, 2010). Edited collections on the topic include Hine (2006), Jankowski (2009), Edwards et al. (2013), and Wouters et al. (2013).

The aim of this first special issue on the topic of knowledge infrastructures in an STS journal is to take stock of existing research and chart new directions. For taking stock our scope is inclusive. We are open to investigations of knowledge infrastructures of all disciplines and research fields, from all theoretical and methodological perspectives, from all geographical locations. We also solicit studies of knowledge infrastructures that are not limited to scholarly knowledge production, but address, for instance citizen science, ‘hacker science’, as well as studies that address emerging forms of knowledge production, for instance open science and research 2.0, or studies that explore knowledge infrastructures in commercial or public services domains. To be able to chart new directions we encourage papers that clearly focus on knowledge infrastructures and contribute to furthering our understanding of infrastructures for research and knowledge production.

As an interdisciplinary research field, Science and Technology Studies builds on a variety of disciplines and disciplinary subfields. Within the topic of knowledge infrastructures, several research perspectives are brought together. Interdisciplinary research integrations are needed, and the cross-fertilization is broadening beyond the founding STS disciplinary field to include, for example, Social Informatics, Library Studies, and Information Sciences. While most of the existing work has focused on studying knowledge infrastructures in the natural, medical and engineering sciences, studies of knowledge infrastructures in arts, social sciences and humanities are on the rise, thus increasing the variety of domain specific (sub)disciplines.

The complexity of the phenomena calls for theoretical and methodological developments, actively engaging us to revisit existing approaches and contributions. The issues not only relate to how we can best study and understand knowledge infrastructures, but also how we could imagine them moving forward (Edwards et al. 2013 -

Theoretical challenges include understanding of complex multi-scale relations and multiple scopes involved with knowledge infrastructures, the local and situated dimension of infrastructure together with its global and pervasive nature, and the complex work of alignment and coordination of activities across different socio-material worlds and technological arrangements. These dimensions have been and continue to be the focus of many studies, providing interesting approaches, perspectives, and metaphors. Yet, important aspects and areas remain under-studied or under-understood. What are the main theoretical contributions of research on knowledge infrastructures in two past decades? How could STS and other fields’ perspectives, concepts and metaphors be revisited and advanced?

Methodological challenges related to the study of knowledge infrastructures include their geographical distribution, evolution over extended periods of time, sociotechnical nature as well as the ‘double challenge’ of having to understand both information technologies and the domain discipline(s) under investigation, and the multiplicity and heterogeneity of participants. Methodological developments so far have provided tools for studying the mundane and the invisible (Star, 1999), such as the ‘infrastructural inversion’ suggested by Bowker (1994) to focus on all the activities that warrant the functioning of infrastructure (e.g. maintenance, upgrade, repair) rather than those that it invisibly supports. New ways to study large or distributed phenomena - offline and online, as well as longitudinal, multi-sited, multi-scope, and ‘messy’ dimensions of infrastructures are suggested. As STS scholars have a history with ‘intervening’ while studying science and technology phenomena, works have been developed to engage not only with the analysis but also with the design, enactment, and co-construction of infrastructures. What kinds of innovative methodological developments are needed? How could existing methods be improved?

This special issue seeks articles that help the STS field to understand complex issues involved with knowledge infrastructures for research and knowledge production. We encourage empirical, conceptual, theoretical, and methodological contributions. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • Knowledge production processes and research activities (changes, continuity, and innovation in), e.g. old and new science, big and small science
  • Knowledge practices, memory practices
  • Collaboration, coordination, cooperation, partnerships in knowledge production
  • New forms of research conduct: Citizen science, hacker science, open science, digital humanities
  • New modes of knowledge production with knowledge infrastructures: data-driven science, crowd-sourcing, data mining, data analytics…
  • Reconfigurations of work and occupational roles in knowledge production (e.g. support and technical work)
  • Variety of actors and participants: individuals, collectives, communities, networks from academia, industry, and general public
  • Data practices and issues: data collection, data generation, aggregation, sharing, use and reuse, curation, visualization, dissemination, storage, metadata and semantic issues, ‘data-intensive science’
  • Databases, repositories, collections, archives
  • Interoperability, standardization, flexibility, classification (ontologies, metadata…)
  • Design, development, and uses of knowledge infrastructures
  • Breakdown, maintenance, upgrade, repair, care, sustainability of knowledge infrastructures
  • Institutions and organizations: programs, funding, policy of knowledge infrastructures
  • Issues of scale, scope and time frame of knowledge infrastructures: multiple spatial and temporal scopes, large-scale, long-term issues
  • Issues of visibility/invisibility, diversity, heterogeneity, interdisciplinarity
  • Issues of authority, expertise, power, policy, politics

Important dates

October 19, 2014 Submission
February 20, 2015 First round of editorial decisions
Early 2016 Publication

Submission process
Full papers of original contributions not exceeding 10,000 words should be submitted by October 19, 2014. However, to speed the review process and to increase your own chances of responding to review comments successfully within the special issue time-frame, we encourage the authors to submit their papers at an earlier date. Manuscripts should be prepared according to the journal guidelines for authors ( When submitting manuscripts, please send them via the journal submission pages ( When submitting, please include the following denominator in your manuscript title: SI-KI. Furthermore, in order for us to keep track of all papers, please also email your paper as an attachment to the guest editors indicated below.

All papers will be double-blind reviewed following the journal’s normal review process and criteria.

For further information please contact the guest editors for this Special Issue:

Helena Karasti, University of Oulu, Finland; Luleå University of Technology, Sweden (
Florence Millerand, University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM), Canada (
Christine M. Hine, University of Surrey, UK (
Geoffrey C. Bowker, University of Irvine, CA, USA (

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