Change search
ReferencesLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
Urks and the Urban Subsurface as Geosocial Formation
Linköping University, Department of Thematic Studies, Technology and Social Change. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Environmental Technology and Management. Linköping University, Faculty of Science & Engineering.
2016 (English)In: Science, Technology and Human Values, ISSN 0162-2439, E-ISSN 1552-8251, Vol. 41, no 5, 827-848 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article investigates “urks”, i.e., disconnected parts of urban infrastructure that remain in their subsurface location. The reason for engaging in this topic is resource scarcity concerns, as urks contain large amounts of copper and aluminum that could be “mined” for the benefit of the environment.

Our starting point is that there is a certain non–stagnant capacity of waste–like entities such as urks and that their resistance to categorization is crucial to encapsulate their political potential (cf. Hawkins, 2006; Moore, 2012; Hird, 2013). We investigate how this indeterminate capacity has implications in terms of where future trajectories for urk recovery are conceivable.

The study is based on interviews with respondents from the infrastructure and waste sectors in Sweden. By stressing the relationship between urks and their geo–social subsurface surroundings, we use the respondents’ exploratory interpretations of urks to outline a spectrum of issues that should be further discussed for urks to become a matter of concern. The negotiation of these issues, we suggest, can be conceived of as a form of navigation along the perceived fault lines between actors and priorities, and they must be resolved for increased urk recovery to occur.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Sage Publications, 2016. Vol. 41, no 5, 827-848 p.
National Category
Environmental Sciences Earth and Related Environmental Sciences Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-122760DOI: 10.1177/0162243916634866ISI: 000382579500003OAI: diva2:872812

The status of this article was previous Manuscript.

Funding agencies: Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (FORMAS); Swedish Innovation Agency (VINNOVA); Aforsk Foundation

Available from: 2015-11-20 Created: 2015-11-20 Last updated: 2016-10-03Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The Urk World: Hibernating Infrastructures and the Quest for Urban Mining
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Urk World: Hibernating Infrastructures and the Quest for Urban Mining
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
Urkarnas Värld : Infrastrukturer i dvala och staden som resursbas
Abstract [en]

This PhD thesis concerns urban mining, an umbrella term for different recycling strategies aimed to recover materials from the built environment. More specifically, it focuses on hibernating urban infrastructures, that is: cables and pipes that have been left behind in their subsurface location after they were disconnected. I term this subsurface urban realm of system rejects the “Urk World”. “Urk” is short for “urkopplad”, the Swedish word for “disconnected”, an abbreviation often found on old infrastructure maps denoting discarded system parts. Since urks contain high concentrations of copper, my normative stance is that the Urk World should be “mined” as a contribution towards diminishing the persistently wasteful handling of mineral resources in society.

The thesis has three focus areas. The first of these discusses how the Urk World has emerged, that is: how the creation of urks is sustained in sociotechnical processes related to infrastructure’s provision. The second concerns the potential of urk mining, how much copper the Urk World contains, where these quantities are located and by which implications they could be recovered. The third focus area is devoted to the politics of urks, and is concerned with the political embeddedness of infrastructure and where politics might intervene for the sake of increased urk recovery.

Five papers complete the thesis. The first paper investigates how much copper, aluminium and steel there is in the Urk World of the Swedish city of Norrköping, and how these quantities are spatially dispersed in the urban environment. The second paper is based on interviews with system owners and repair crews, and investigates how urks come into existence in relation to three different infrastructural processes: maintenance, larger installation projects and shutdown. The third paper describes how environmental systems analysis can be beneficially coupled with theories and methods from the social sciences to create knowledge useful to aid the development of urk recycling schemes. The fourth article makes use of the inherent ambiguities of urks to investigate a spectrum of locations where politics aimed for increased urk recovery can intervene as well as what is at stake there. The fifth and final paper investigates urks in Linköping’s power grid in spatial and weight terms, and analyses the implications of urk recovery from several different viewpoints.

In overall terms, the major contribution of the thesis is how it improves the knowledge of societal stocks of materials, thereby giving an increased recognition of the built environment as a resource base. In overall scientific terms, it sets an example of how a coherent interdisciplinary research design can provide knowledge useful for the implementation of urk recycling schemes as well as for political decision–making for increased urk recovery.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2015. 99 p.
Linköping Studies in Science and Technology. Dissertations, ISSN 0345-7524 ; 1720
urban mining; infrastructure; material flow analysis; hibernating stocks; copper
National Category
Social Sciences Other Environmental Engineering
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-122758 (URN)10.3384/diss.diva-122758 (DOI)978–91–7685–907–0 (print) (ISBN)
Public defence
2015-12-11, ACAS, A-huset, Campus Valla, Linköping, 10:15 (English)
Swedish Research Council FormasVINNOVA
Available from: 2015-11-20 Created: 2015-11-20 Last updated: 2015-11-20Bibliographically approved

Open Access in DiVA

fulltext(189 kB)31 downloads
File information
File name FULLTEXT01.pdfFile size 189 kBChecksum SHA-512
Type fulltextMimetype application/pdf

Other links

Publisher's full text

Search in DiVA

By author/editor
Wallsten, BjörnKrook, Joakim
By organisation
Technology and Social ChangeFaculty of Arts and SciencesEnvironmental Technology and ManagementFaculty of Science & Engineering
In the same journal
Science, Technology and Human Values
Environmental SciencesEarth and Related Environmental SciencesEnvironmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

Search outside of DiVA

GoogleGoogle Scholar
Total: 31 downloads
The number of downloads is the sum of all downloads of full texts. It may include eg previous versions that are now no longer available

Altmetric score

Total: 137 hits
ReferencesLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link