Seminar- Infrastructure Systems as Institutional Relics: Insights from the U.S. Bridge System and Indian Grid Expansion Programs

MS&E 1224
Monday, February 17, 2020 - 15:00

Dr. Daniel Armanios
Assistant Professor in Department of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University
Distinguished Visiting Professor of Leadership at Tsinghua University's Schwarzman College

While there has been increased understanding of how infrastructure systems can shape the societies around them, we have less understanding of the opposite: how societies can also shape how infrastructure systems are constructed, maintained, and used. To better understand this process, we re-conceptualize infrastructure systems as "institutional relics". Institutional relics are "institutional" in that these systems are designed in accordance to the standards of the authoritative engineering bodies of the time. They are "relics" in that these standards are built right into the attributes of these systems and these properties persist even as such standards later become outdated and are subsequently changed. Through two studies, one of the U.S. bridge system and another of India’s grid expansion, we show what factors are more likely to generate institutional relics, as well as the difficulties and biases that arise when these properties are not adequately considered. I will then briefly conclude as to the implications of these findings on other current trends or systems such as those in artificial intelligence and smart cities.


Daniel Armanios is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University as well as a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Leadership at Tsinghua University’s Schwarzman College. Daniel’s work has been presented at numerous conferences, forums, and workshops internationally, leading to journal publications in a variety of leading management, organizational theory, engineering, and scientific outlets such as Biomacromolecules, Business & Society, Journal of Infrastructure Systems, Hydrological Processes, Nature Sustainability, Organization Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Sustainable Development, and the Strategic Management Journal, as well as reports for NASA, NOAA, and the UN-OHCHR. These works have led to honors and awards such as being named a Goldwater Scholar (2004), a Truman Scholar (2005), an American Helicopter Society’s Vertical Flight Scholar (2005), a Rhodes Scholar (2007), a joint Stanford Graduate Benchmark and NSF Graduate Research Fellow (2009-2015), the Best Dissertation Award from the Technology and Innovation Management Division of the Academy of Management (2016), the Emerging Scholar in Innovation & Entrepreneurship Award from the Industry Studies Association (2018), and the Best Paper on Environmental and Social Practices Award from the Organization and Management Division of the Academy of Management (2019).