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Infrastructures and Utilities

  • By: Bas J. M. van Vliet
  • In: Encyclopedia of Consumer Culture
  • Edited by: Dale Southerton
  • Subject:Sociology of Consumption, Consumer Psychology, Consumer Culture

Infrastructures are network-bound large technological systems through which utility services are supplied, distributed, and consumed. Utilities are the providers of these services, which encompass drinking water, electricity, gas supply, waste collection, and sewer services.

Until quite recently, the term consumer, let alone consumer culture, was absent in the vocabulary of utility managers. Utility management has long been the domain of engineers and urban planners who have been actively rolling out huge networks of pipes and wires, with the aim of servicing the public at large. Right at the point where the pipes and wires reached the homes of individual users, utility managers' involvement suddenly ended. This point is physically marked with a meter and rhetorically and legally with the divide between the “public or collective” network ...

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