Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW)

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 149–176 | Cite as

Bottom-up Infrastructures: Aligning Politics and Technology in building a Wireless Community Network

  • Stefano Crabu
  • Paolo MagauddaEmail author


Contemporary innovation in infrastructures is increasingly characterized by a close relationship between experts and lay people. This phenomenon has attracted the attention from a wide range of disciplines, including computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW), science and technology studies (S&TS), organization studies and participatory design (PD). Connecting to this broad area of research, the article presents a qualitative case study concerning the building and maintenance of a grassroots, bottom-up information infrastructure in Italy, defined as wireless community network (WCN). Methodologically, the research is based on qualitative interviews with participants to the WCN, ethnographic observations and document analysis. The aim of the article is to understand the alignment between the technical work implied in building this bottom-up infrastructure and the political and cultural frameworks that move people to participate to this project. Relying on the field of science & technology studies, and in particular on the notions of ‘inverse infrastructure’ and ‘research in the wild’, we disclose the WCN’s peculiar innovation trajectory, localized outside conventional spaces of research and development. Overall, the presentation of the qualitative and ethnographic data allows to point out a more general reflection on bottom-up infrastructures and to enrich the academic debate concerning bottom-up infrastructuring work and other similar typologies of collaborative design projects in the domain of infrastructures.


Information infrastructures Wireless community networks Bottom-up infrastructures Inverse infrastructures Research in the wild Qualitative case study 



The paper has been conceived and discussed by both authors. In compliance with Italian academic folkways, Stefano Crabu and Paolo Magaudda acknowledge that the former wrote paragraph 2, 6, 6.2, 6.3 and the latter wrote paragraphs 3, 4, 5, 6.1. The introduction and conclusions has been jointly written. Part of this work has been partially conducted within the project ‘netCommons’ (Network Infrastructure as Commons), financed by the European Commission, H2020-ICT-2015 Programme, Grant Number 688768.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CIGA, University of PadovaPadovaItaly
  2. 2.FISPPA, University of PadovaPadovaItaly

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