Istanbul Technical University

Science Technology and Society program

Does Artifacts have politics?

Speed Bumps

by Sadi Evren SEKER


In this paper I want to discuss the artifact speed bump and the effect of politics on speed bumps. There is not enough data available so I have collected some information about Turkey, laws, applications and social responses will be discussed on this paper. Since there is no technical information available and my request for informaion is unanswered by municipality authorities, I have been limited too much and used some observations. Most of the work done in this paper is digging connection between politics and artifacts. How economy effects politics, and how politics effects artifacts? Is it possible for the application of an artifact, to change from region to region by economical backgrounds? It would be very helpful to get the amount of speed bumps and economical status infromations.

1. Introduction:

In this paper two connection between politics and artifacts is discussed. First the connection between laws and companies will be discussed. Than it will continue with local economic power on an artifact.

2. Turkish Republic Laws about speed bumps:

First of all I want to inform you about the laws that are related to speed bumps in Turkey. In the web site of Izmir (third biggest city of Turkey) Police Department[1] it is clearly declared that speed bumps are not legal, related to Turkish Republic Laws. Any deformation on road, that forces drivers to reduce their speed is dangerous and illegal. According to common sense in Turkey, nobody knows laws about speed bumps, most of the people critique the height or frequency of speed bumps but does not critique the existence of speed bumps. Existence of speed bumps is an accepted paradigm beyond the laws of Turkish Republic.

3. Companies who produces speed bumps in Turkey

It is very contradictory to see speed bump productions on web sites of 2 major construction companies[4][5] in Turkey. During my research, because of time limits I could not have chance to dig government and companies relations, but I think it is enough to see products that are illegal to use on some companies web pages.

Following informaions are collected form those companies. They are well formed speed bumps. In Turkey there are two different speed bump types.

1. Speed bumps built by asphalt during road construction. They are produced by municipality firms during road construction. They do not have standard shapes, and their color can be erased by time.

2. pre-fabric products built from plastic or rubber. These products are produced by factories (e.g. [4][5]) and placed after road construction. They are better products because of their standard shapes and long life colors. [See Appendix]

It is very easy to see the regional distribution of these two speed bump technology. Former is very common on low-society regions because it is cheaper than latter and easier to build. Latter is mainly placed on high-society roads, they are frequently maintained, cleaned and replaced. There are trafic signs just before those speed bumps. But in low-society roads they are extremely dangerous. There are no signs or paintings on speed bumps and drivers has no chance to notice them. Their differing heights makes the case more dangerous.

This is the result of economical and political agreements. It is easy to monitor the high-society roads are mainly used by politics, and relatively rich people; while low-society roads are used by mainly unemployed, and relatively poor people. Both society has the same municipality and municipality should serve both societies equal, but there are such differences from society to society.

4. Application of speed bumps in Turkey

Laws of Turkish Republic related to speed bumps are unbelievable for anybody who lives in Turkey, escpecially for Istanbul residents, because almost all of the roads contains speed bumps. Some of low-society roads contains four or five speed bumps in thirty meter distance. There are many complaints about speed bumps. I have collected some information about the comments of Istanbul residents[2].

Followings are some translations from residents:

1. It is the biggest danger for cars

2. Some of them are impossible to pass without any damage

3. Some has signs on geographic maps because of altitude of their peak

One of the leading newspapers of Turkey has published some complaints from citizens of Turkish Republic, translations are below:

Alaadin Tomruk has written that:

“In Lara Caglayan, there are some speed bumps that are dangerous for citizens lives. Most of the apartment owners build 25 cm height speed bumps in front of their apartments. These illegal speed bumps have 3 or 4 meter frequencies. ... Last day my car is damaged because of these speed bumps. Like me, these speed bumps has damaged lots of people. Municipality authorities do not respond our objections. “

Above information shows us that, most of the citizens are unhappy about speed bumps and there are many illegal speed bumps which are dangerous for cars. Also building a speed bump is not in the hands of authorities only, and there is not a standard for speed bumps.

I have e-mailed to municipality for information about speed bumps. They are really very good at citizen communications. I have asked the properties and features of speed bumps by e-mail but while I am writing this report there was no response from municipality. According to a major newspaper's[3] news a citizen is complained to municipality about speed bumps and had no response.

5. STS and Speed Bumps

As Hughes has discussed in his writing[6]: “Technologies are socially constructed and adapted in order to function in systems”. Here we can easily see the speed bumps are socially constructed by economical or traditional knowledge and the are adapted to system. It is almost impossible to put well constructed expensive speed bumps to everywhere or build cheap and dangerous speed bumps to everywhere again. Each speed bump technology has a social status and should be placed to correct place.

The reading of Winters, "Do Artifacts Have Politics?" was a little deep and complex for myself, Politics is defined as “arrangement of power in human associations as well as the activities that take place within those arrangements” [8]. The chapter is divided in two parts, the first one talks about choices and artifacts being political. Winter states that we all know people have politics -things do not. He converses on an analogy about a man and those strange looking low bridges over the parkways in Long Island, and how they happen to have gotten that way. It seemed odd that the overpasses were extraordinarily low, having about a nine foot clearance. The questioning of these two hundred or so, low hanging overpasses on Long Island were design that way for a reason. The design was that of a man who had political ties and clout to help stop busses used by poor and black people to keep them out of the community of residents at Long Island. The busses were twelve feet tall and mostly poor and blacks with lower incomes used the transit system in those times, so technology from the definition became a politic or political. There are numerous accounts and examples where technology had some type influence or power to guide society in certain directions. In our speed bump example it is same as the Long Island bridge, both are difficulty for the mobility of poor people. As it has been discussed on writing of McGINN[9], mobility is one of the most important essentials of society. So effecting the mobility means effecting the society itself.

So in speed bump example we can see a limited version of how societies effect politics and how politics effects societies.

6. Conclusion:

I think problems of speed bumps depend on the choice problem. Politics should make a decision and how money will be spent is not an easy issue to decide, we can see this by a simple artifact speed bump. They spend more money on the speed bumps of high society while they are cutting expenditures to lower societies.

This effect is the proof of how society effect politics and how politics effects societies. Since poor societies with bad constructed speed bumps has negative mobility, they are effected by politics.


[1] Izmir Police Department Web Site , speed bump related page:

[2]Free forum about speedbumps on Turkish roads:

[3]Hurriyet, Akdeniz, 07/November/2000,

[4]SFA Electronic

[5]Utip Insaat Trafik

[6]The Evolution of Large Technological Systems, Thomas P. Hughes

[7]The Social Construction of Facts and Artifacts:Or how the sociology of Scienc and Socilogy of Tehcnology might benefit each other?, by Trevor J. Pinc and Wiebe E. Bijker

[8]Do artifacts have politics?, by Winters

[9]Science Technology and Society, by Robert E. McGINN , Standford University


Figure of two formal speed bumps: