Qualification project

Political construction of critical infrastructures and effects of digitalisation

Research department: Politics and Planning

Project Leader within IRS: Felicitas Klemp

Duration: 10/2019 - 10/2022

The cumulative dissertation project tries to approach the topic of critical infrastructures with different approaches. Central aspects are "space" and "scale". First, the perspective of the nation state is examined, because nation states define sectors and infrastructures that are considered critical; they thus have a formative role. Then, the city level is examined as a planning unit, because decisions are also made at this level that influence the nature and functions of infrastructures. Finally, we zoom into the health sector in hospitals, because processes and decisions that change infrastructures also take place here.
Critical infrastructures are inherently potentially affected by failure events, because "critical" refers to the possible failure of infrastructure. Therefore, concepts that guarantee maintenance occupy a special position. In Germany, the focus is on the protection concept, whereas in Nordic countries such as Sweden, resilience is significant as a concept.
The first article focuses on how discourses influence policy making and implementation around critical infrastructure in Germany. It is therefore based on the following questions: Which specific strands of discourse have prevailed within the discourse around critical infrastructure in Germany? Which discourses are institutionalised and which discourse strands are given less attention (Hajer 2002/2008)? The study shows that digitalisation and the associated cyber security are elementary and have become institutionalised.
The second article focuses on the urban level: How is the digitisation of infrastructures assessed in the field of tension between the promise of effectiveness and vulnerability? City districts with smart city projects are used as empirical units. The focus here is not on the effects of the digitalised infrastructures on the city and the population. Rather, a step back is taken to understand how, by what or by whom the planning of digitalised infrastructures is influenced: What are the influencing factors that affect project planning? What role do narratives and guiding principles or project structures play?

In the third article, the focus falls on Sweden. The country is particularly interesting for two reasons: Firstly, the concept of resilience is very significant here. In addition, digitalisation is more advanced than in Germany, especially in the health sector, for example in hospitals. Therefore, the article examines what the drivers of digitalisation are. The article analyses the representation of a cyber attack on a Stockholm hospital in a fictional format and examines what significance the scenario has in reality. Once again, the focus is on the visibility of certain narratives. Popular culture is understood here as a catalyst of society.

The doctoral project is supervised by Prof. Dr. Nadine Marquardt at the Faculty of Geography of the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn.