Socio-technical networks of infrastructure management: Network concepts and motifs for studying digitalization, decentralization, and integrated management.

Manny, Liliane; Angst, Mario; Rieckermann, Jörg; Fischer, Manuel (2022). Socio-technical networks of infrastructure management: Network concepts and motifs for studying digitalization, decentralization, and integrated management. Journal of environmental management, 318, p. 115596. Elsevier 10.1016/j.jenvman.2022.115596

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Networked infrastructure systems - including energy, transportation, water, and wastewater systems - provide essential services to society. Globally, these services are undergoing major transformative processes such as digitalization, decentralization, or integrated management. Such processes not only depend on technical changes in infrastructure systems but also include important social and socio-technical dimensions. In this article, we propose a socio-technical network perspective to study the ensemble of social actors and technical elements involved in an infrastructure system, and their complex relations. We conceptualize structurally explicit socio-technical networks of networked infrastructure systems based on methodological considerations from network analysis and draw on concepts from socio-technical system theories and social-ecological network studies. Based on these considerations, we suggest analytical methods to study basic network concepts such as density, reciprocity, and centrality in a socio-technical network. We illustrate socio-technical motifs, i.e., meaningful sub-structures in socio-technical networks of infrastructure management. Drawing on these, we describe how infrastructure systems can be analyzed in terms of digitalization, decentralization, and integrated management from a socio-technical network perspective. Using the example of urban wastewater systems, we illustrate an empirical application of our approach. The results of an empirical case study in Switzerland demonstrate the potential of socio-technical networks to promote a deeper understanding of complex socio-technical relations in networked infrastructure systems. We contend that such a deeper understanding could improve management practices of infrastructure systems and is becoming even more important for enabling future data-driven, decentralized, and more integrated infrastructure management.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Institute of Political Science

UniBE Contributor:

Fischer, Manuel (B)


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 320 Political science








Pubmed Import

Date Deposited:

12 Aug 2022 09:49

Last Modified:

29 Mar 2023 23:38

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Infrastructure management Multi-level networks Socio-technical networks Socio-technical relations Urban wastewater management




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