Infrapuncture is a word by University of Sydney lecturer Deb Verhoeven. As you might suspect, the term is fusing “infrastructure” and “acupuncture”, referring to small scale interventions in the infrastructure that can cause stress relief. I found this expression very appealing because it addresses the tension within infrastructures and I wondered what it might mean beyond its original intentions if we would apply it to bots.

Deb Verhoeven first introduced this concept in 2016 at a Digital Humanities conference in Oxford. She applies it to digital humanities infrastructures. In her talk she gives the example of the Greek and Italian cinemas that appeared in Melbourne before the invention of the video tape and the influence they have had over the influx and organisation of the Italian and Greek immigrants living in Australia at the time. Her research concluded that these small cinemas that only screened subtitled Italian and Greek movies led to an increase in migrant population from those areas. Similarly, the shutting down of a cinema coincided with the dispersion of the immigrant community in the neighbourhood.

She uses this example to reflect upon the ways in which small scale interferences in the larger context that can make a powerful impact and how that can be transposed to digital research infrastructures.

Infrapuncture is based on an understanding that:

An important thing to note is that infrapunctures coexist with infrastructures of care, which cultivate a “sensitivity to suffering and damage” in order to “understand for example, where it hurts in society.” But in order to be able to address the source of stress, these punctures that temporarily deflate and relax are as necessary as constructively building an extension of a digital ecology.