An Anthropology of the Machine: Tokyo's Commuter Train Network

University of Chicago Press

With its infamously packed cars and disciplined commuters, Tokyo’s commuter train network is one of the most complex technical infrastructures on Earth. In An Anthropology of the Machine, Michael Fisch provides a nuanced perspective on how Tokyo’s commuter train network embodies the lived realities of technology in our modern world. Drawing on his fine-grained knowledge of transportation, work, and everyday life in Tokyo, Fisch shows how fitting into a system that operates on the extreme edge of sustainability can take a physical and emotional toll on a community while also creating a collective way of life—one with unique limitations and possibilities.
An Anthropology of the Machine is a creative ethnographic study of the culture, history, and experience of commuting in Tokyo. At the same time, it is a theoretically ambitious attempt to think through our very relationship with technology and our possible ecological futures. Fisch provides an unblinking glimpse into what it might be like to inhabit a future in which more and more of our infrastructure—and the planet itself—will have to operate beyond capacity to accommodate our ever-growing population. 


Remediating infrastructure: Tokyo's commuter train network and the new autonomy

in Infrastructures and Social Compexity: A Routledge Companion, 115-127, Ed., Penny Harvey, Casper Bruun Jensen & Atsuro Morita
ISBN: 978-1138654945

In urban centers throughout the world the integration of computer technology into existing crucial urban infrastructures (transportation, water, power) is being welcomed by governments, city planners, and corporations alike as key to the realization of an ecologically and economically sustainable and resilient platform for future society. The urban form emerging from these projects—often glossed as the “smart city”—has for some time captured the attention of scholars in architecture and urban design, media studies, geography, and sociology. However, as the sociocultural anthropologist Brian Larkin suggests, anthropology has only just begun to explore its significance (Larkin 2013). A central challenge for anthropology, I want to suggest in this regard, is to explore the ontologies of this emerging form. ...