Infrastructures are the built structures forming the foundation of society. They are so basic to our lives that we are usually unaware of their existence; they are ‘invisible’ until they break down. In this talk, Thijs Willems presents his ethnographic study on breakdowns in the Dutch railways. For the study he participated in the daily lives of a range of railway employees (from train drivers to managers) to understand what infrastructure breakdowns mean. A key finding pertains to how complexity in infrastructure breakdowns is perceived and how it is dealt with in practice.
About the speaker
Thijs Willems’ background is in organization studies and anthropology. He is interested in understanding how complex and technological organizations manage and organize people and processes to reach certain goals, and especially how employees experience their work in such environments. For his PhD research, he conducted a longitudinal ethnographic study on infrastructure breakdowns in the Dutch railways. Currently, Thijs is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities, where he focuses on how new technologies in the digital age change the meaning of work and organizations.