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Anique Hommels

Anique Hommels is Associate Professor in the Department of Technology and Society Studies, Faculty of Arts and Culture, University of Maastricht, Netherlands.

Titles by This Author

Obduracy in Urban Sociotechnical Change

City planning initiatives and redesign of urban structures often become mired in debate and delay. Despite the fact that cities are considered to be dynamic and flexible spaces—never finished but always under construction—it is very difficult to change existing urban structures; they become fixed, obdurate, securely anchored in their own histories as well as in the histories of their surroundings.

In Unbuilding Cities, Anique Hommels looks at the tension between the malleability of urban space and its obduracy, focusing on sites and structures that have been subjected to "unbuilding"—redesign or reconfiguration. She brings the concepts of science and technology studies (STS) to bear on the study of cities. Viewing the city as a large sociotechnological artifact, she demonstrates the usefulness of STS tools that were developed to analyze other technological artifacts and explores in detail the role of obduracy in sociotechnical change. Her analysis distinguishes three concepts of obduracy: interactionist, in which actors with diverging views are constrained by fixed ways of thinking and interacting; relational, in which change is difficult because of technology's embeddedness in sociotechnical networks; and enduring, in which persistent traditions influence the development of technology over time.

Hommels examines the tensions between obduracy and change in three urban redesign projects in the Netherlands: a renovated city center that fell into drabness and disrepair; a highway system that runs through a densely populated urban area; and a high-rise housing project, designed according to modernist precepts and built for middle-class families, that became a haven for unemployment and crime. Unbuilding Cities contributes to a productive fusion of STS and urban studies.

Titles by This Editor

New Directions in Research and Governance

Novel technologies and scientific advancements offer not only opportunities but risks. Technological systems are vulnerable to human error and technical malfunctioning that have far-reaching consequences: one flipped switch can cause a cascading power failure across a networked electric grid. Yet, once addressed, vulnerability accompanied by coping mechanisms may yield a more flexible and resilient society. This book investigates vulnerability, in both its negative and positive aspects, in technological cultures. The contributors argue that viewing risk in terms of vulnerability offers a novel approach to understanding the risks and benefits of science and technology. Such an approach broadens conventional risk analysis by connecting to issues of justice, solidarity, and livelihood, and enabling comparisons between the global north and south.

The book explores case studies that range from agricultural practices in India to neonatal intensive care medicine in Western hospitals; these cases, spanning the issues addressed in the book, illustrate what vulnerability is and does. The book offers conceptual frameworks for empirical description and analysis of vulnerability that elucidate its ambiguity, context dependence, and constructed nature. Finally, the book addresses the implications of these analyses for the governance of vulnerability, proposing a more reflexive way of dealing with vulnerability in technological cultures.

Contributors
Marjolein van Asselt, Martin Boeckhout, Wiebe Bijker, Tessa Fox, Stephen Healy, Anique Hommels, Sheila Jasanoff,
Jozef Keulartz, Jessica Mesman, Ger Palmboom, C. Shambu Prasad, Julia Quartz, Johan M. Sanne, Maartje Schermer,
Teesta Setelvad, Esha Shah, Andy Stirling, Imrat Verhoeven, Esther Versluis, Shiv Visvanathan, Gerard de Vries, Ger Wackers, Dick Willems