Carnival in the global village: Re-imagining information infrastructures

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Information Society, Volume 35, Number 5, p.299–313 (2019)


©, Published with license by Taylor & Francis. © Donncha Kavanagh and Gianluca Miscione. Infrastructures are typically seen as boring and serious, and are routinely depicted using metaphors from transportation. We argue that the carnival is a fruitful metaphor for understanding emerging information infrastructures, as the information age is also the age of the carnival. We distinguish between the ubiquitous or distal carnival and its particular manifestations–the proximate carnival–both of which are characterized by play, anarchy, dissimulation, vulgar language, and excessive consumption. The article focuses on Bitcoin, which we see as a nascent information infrastructure and an exemplary instance of a proximate carnival. It also considers how the carnival metaphor might help us reimagine our study of the information age.