Through this talk I build on the concept of highly mobile, information-centric and digitally-
reliant ?nomadic workers? to advance ?infrastructural competence? as a means to embody the
set of social skills and arrangements, expertise, technological abilities, situational awareness,
and goal-oriented behaviors that allow people to mobilize various digital and physical
resources, and leverage social relations, into productive ensembles. Drawing on two
overlapping studies of work, I illustrate infrastructural competence as a set of situated practices
directed at goals, reliant on assemblages of digital and material elements.
Advancing infrastructural competence builds from the goal-oriented uses of personalized
collections of digital devices, applications, services that, with other material elements, comprise
what we call ?digital assemblages.? The specific collection of digital and material elements may
differ from one person to the next relative to data structures, particular applications, devices
and norms of use. Despite such differences, the basic form and effect of different digital
assemblages are functionally equivalent and the collections are structurally similar in use across
Taken together, infrastructural competence and digital assemblages provide conceptual
articulations of contemporary practices. My empirical basis is work, but competence and
assemblages are just as visible in the ways gamers pursue their craft, the ways in which teens
marshal media, and many other socio-digital arrangements.
Steve Sawyer is a member of the faculty at Syracuse University?s School of Information Studies.
Steve?s research focuses on the computerization of work, building from and extending the
social informatics perspective. Sawyer?s research is done through detailed field-based studies of
software developers, real estate agents, police officers, organizational technologists, scientists
and mobile knowledge workers. His work is published in a range of venues and supported by
funds from the National Science Foundation, IBM, and a number of other public and private
sponsors. Prior to happily returning to Syracuse University?s iSchool in 2008, Steve was a
founding faculty member of the Pennsylvania State University?s College of Information Sciences
and Technology. Sawyer earned his Doctorate in Business Administration from Boston
University in 1995.
1:15pm to 2:30pm