Information Infrastructure and Resilience in American Disaster Plans

  • Megan FinnEmail author


Public information infrastructures are not only potential sites of enacting sociotechnical resilience but are crucial to the project of sociotechnical resilience. Following critiques of the broad concept of resilience as unspecific and neoliberal, this chapter contributes to the project of understanding sociotechnical resilience by emphasizing the complex institutional arrangements involved in the production of information infrastructures. The chapter grounds the concept of resilience in the definitions outlined in the United States’ contemporary infrastructure protection plans. Through an examination of historical examples of repair in California after disasters, this chapter asks what it means to reimagine public information infrastructure under the rubric of resilience, highlighting (1) the securitization of information infrastructure as a logic attempting to shape future sociomaterial entanglements; (2) the impulse to control uncertainty by rationalizing risk; and (3) that privately owned infrastructure does not conform to the modern infrastructural ideal.


Resilience Information Earthquake Sociomaterial Infrastructures 


  1. Adey, P., & Anderson, B. (2012). Anticipating emergencies: Technologies of preparedness and the matter of security. Security Dialogue, 43(2), 99–117. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Amir, S. (2018). Introduction: Resilience as Sociotechnical Construct. In S. Amir (Ed.), The Sociotechnical Constitution of Resilience: A New Perspective on Governing Risk and Disaster. Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Amir, S., & Kant, V. (2018). Sociotechnical Resilience: A Preliminary Concept. Risk Analysis, 38: 8–16. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Anderson, B. (2010). Preemption, precaution, preparedness: Anticipatory action and future geographies. Progress in Human Geography, 34(6), 777–798. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beck, U. (1992). Risk society: towards a new modernity. London: SAGE Publications.Google Scholar
  6. Bowker, G. C., & Star, S. L. (1999). Sorting things out: Classification and its consequences. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  7. Carse, A. (2014). Beyond the big ditch: Politics, ecology, and infrastructure at the Panama Canal. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Clarke, L. (1999). Mission improbable: Using fantasy documents to tame disaster. University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  9. Collier, S. J., & Lakoff, A. (2008a). Distributed preparedness: The spatial logic of domestic security in the United States. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 26(1), 7–28. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Collier, S. J., & Lakoff, A. (2008b). The vulnerability of vital systems: How “critical infrastructure” became a security problem. In M. D. Cavelty & K. S. Kristensen (Eds.), Securing “The Homeland”: Critical infrastructure, risk and (in)security. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Collier, S. J., & Lakoff, A. (2015). Vital systems security: Reflexive biopolitics and the government of emergency. Theory, Culture & Society, 32(2), 19–51. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Finn, M. (in press). Documenting aftermath. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  13. Finn, M. (2013). Information infrastructure and descriptions of the 1857 Fort Tejon Earthquake. Information & Culture: A Journal of History, 48(2), 194–221. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Harrald, J. R. (2006). Agility and discipline: Critical success factors for disaster response. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 604, 256–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kane, S. C., Medina, E., & Michler, D. M. (2015). Infrastructural drift in seismic cities: Chile, Pacific Rim, 27 February 2010. Social Text, 33(1 122), 71–92. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Knowles, S. G. (2007). Defending Philadelphia: A historical case study of civil defense in the early Cold War. Public Works Management & Policy, 11(3), 217–232. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Knowles, S. G. (2011). The disaster experts: Mastering risk in modern America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lakoff, A. (2007). Preparing for the next emergency. Public Culture, 19(2), 247–271. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lentzos, F., & Rose, N. (2009). Governing insecurity: Contingency planning, protection, resilience. Economy and Society, 38(2), 230–254. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. MacKinnon, D., & Derickson, K. D. (2013). From resilience to resourcefulness: A critique of resilience policy and activism. Progress in Human Geography, 37(2), 253–270. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Marvin, S., & Graham, S. (2001). Splintering urbanism: Networked infrastructures, technological mobilities and the urban condition. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. McChesney, R. W. (2013). Digital disconnect: How capitalism is turning the Internet against democracy. New York: The New Press.Google Scholar
  23. Reid, J. (2010). The disastrous and politically debased subject of resilience. Presented at the Symposium on the Biopolitics of Development: Life, Welfare, and Unruly Populations, Calcutta.Google Scholar
  24. Rozario, K. (2007). The culture of calamity: Disaster and the making of modern America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  25. Star, S. L., & Ruhleder, K. (1996). Steps toward an ecology of infrastructure: Design and access for large information spaces. Information Systems Research, 7(1).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Tierney, K. (2014). The social roots of risk: Producing disasters, promoting resilience. Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Tierney, K. (2015). Resilience and the neoliberal project: Discourses, critiques, practices—and Katrina. American Behavioral Scientist, 59(10), 1327–1342. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Wachtendorf, T., & Kendra, J. M. (2006). Improvising disaster in the City of Jazz: Organizational response to Hurricane Katrina. In Understanding Katrina: Perspectives from the Social Sciences. Social Science Research Council. Retrieved from
  29. Walker, J., & Cooper, M. (2011). Genealogies of resilience: From systems ecology to the political economy of crisis adaptation. Security Dialogue, 42(2), 143–160. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Weichselgartner, J., & Kelman, I. (2015). Geographies of resilience: Challenges and opportunities of a descriptive concept. Progress in Human Geography, 39(3), 249–267. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Weick, K. E. (1998). Introductory essay: Improvisation as a mindset for organizational analysis. Organization Science, 9(5), 543–555.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Welsh, M. (2014). Resilience and responsibility: governing uncertainty in a complex world: Resilience and responsibility. The Geographical Journal, 180(1), 15–26. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of WashingtonSeattleUSA

Personalised recommendations