People and Places Uncounted: Legibility in the Water Infrastructure of Lima, Peru

Fenna Hoefsloot, Karin Pfeffer, Christine Richter

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The discourse for becoming ‘smart’ is often accompanied by an assumption that the measurement and monitoring of urban processes will make urban management more efficient and inclusive. In the case of Lima, Peru, this is no different. Current redevelopments of the water infrastructure in Lima aim to reduce the unequal distribution of water consumption, water connection, and water coverage by implementing ‘smart’ information technologies. The premise is that by installing meters and implementing a supervisory system, it becomes possible to construct an informative representation of urban reality and ‘see’ the water flows through the data and make the infrastructure legible. These infrastructural developments would help identify breakdown and non-regulated tapping and increase the fair distribution of water amongst the constituents of the water infrastructure. However, to understand how the introduction of these technologies influences the distribution of water amongst the inhabitants of Lima, we need to consider the production of data in the broader network of material and non-material entities that make up the water infrastructure beyond the digital sphere.
In this research, we bring together two perspectives, one through the data and one through the infrastructure, to identify which people and places are not represented in the data image due to a bundle of technical, administrative and spatial contingencies. Drawing on document analysis and fieldwork, we argue that despite the rhetoric of improved management, legibility making practices create differential geographies in the city beyond the formal/informal dichotomy and enact the citizens of Lima in distinct categories of consumer-citizens.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019
EventCity Futures 2019: Sustainable and Just Cities - University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Duration: 19 Jun 201922 Jun 2019
Conference number: IV


ConferenceCity Futures 2019
Internet address


  • Infrastructuring
  • Smart city
  • Legibility making
  • Data


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