95th ESA Annual Meeting (August 1 -- 6, 2010)

PS 63-156 - Reclaiming the infrastructure, a case study

Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Exhibit Hall A, David L Lawrence Convention Center
Irene Klaver1, Matt Story2 and Dennis Erwin2, (1)Philosophy and Religion Studies, UNT Philosophy Of Water Project, Denton, TX, (2)UNT Philosophy Of Water Project

In this project we examine the hybrid interface of infrastructure and urban ecological settings. Infrastructural urban water projects could form a powerful medium for reconciling the conservation of bio-cultural diversity with socio-economic development and cultural well-being in as long as room is provided for ecological processes. In an era of rapid urbanization, infrastructural entities such as storm water detention ponds could provide much needed ecosystem services as well as public space, thus fostering a cultural nexus around urban(ized) water bodies.

We examine a specific infrastructural entity for evidence of ecological cultural connections. Detention pond SCS #16 in Denton, TX was constructed as a flood control structure in the early 1970s. Currently, the area has a thriving community of citizens and wildlife, despite little overt effort by governmental agencies to promote diversity. We have used thousands of photographs, observations, and conversations to develop a thick description of SCS #16 –known as “little lake” – and to formulate a model of urban renewal fostering a rich cultural nexus around ecological-infrastructural elements.

Photographs and ethnographic observations of numbers and types of human actors and their interactions with each other, other animals, and the water and surroundings provide our first data source. Photographs of beavers, ducks, migratory birds, etc., give a first order sense of diversity of actors. They also provide a means of presenting results and serve as recursive stimuli to deeper examination. Our thick description is built on a single case model, yet a new water control structure within half a mile of SCS #16 which is more overtly “controlled,” built of concrete. Preliminary photographic data suggest an environment with little potential for an ecological-cultural nexus.


Photographs taken over a year’s time show some dozens of “regulars” – actors who appear more than once per month, as well as hundreds of “occasionals.” Our thick description of the social constructs around SCS 16—the engineering and administrative practices and the daily engagements of the “little lake's” actors—will present a taxonomy of observed actors and their activities. The number and variety actors and activities are sufficient to claim the presence of a cultural nexus within the SCS #16 area

Our data suggest that ecological processes as well as public space could thrive without loss of flood protection function, on the contrary, thanks to this infrastructural function, as long as it provides room for ecological processes.