Maintenance, Repair and Beyond: A One-Day Workshop, 10th November 2015

As central moments in individual and collective relationships to technology, the maintenance and repair of technologies and larger systems invite us to do and think socio-technical work differently. When systems, infrastructures or objects break down, new visibilities emerge. These reveal insights into the ordering of relations that are often obscured from sites of design and development. They offer tantalising starting points to rethink relations between people, technologies and environments, from the fabric of urban life, to the planetary scale. Working in this area, we have been heartened that research on maintenance, repair (and related themes) has become more prominent in recent years. We want to add to this renewed impetus by gathering together research on maintenance and repair, and providing a space to set the agenda for work to come.

We have invited a group of scholars whose interests sit across Science and Technology Studies (STS), Information Studies (IS), media and communications, Human Computer Interaction (HCI), urban studies, history, archaeology, and several other fields. Taken together, this work encompasses a range of themes, such as the processes of technological adoption; the artful integrations, articulations and modifications that go into making things work in particular situations, and keep them running. Acts of tinkering and transformation blur the boundaries between associated practices of making, hacking, and craft consumption. New public sites of collaborative repair are growing, where the material traces of consumption meet a new activism. Time itself may be transfigured in this process, changing the way we think about questions of temporal scale (geologic to nano), obsolescence, waste and other questions crucial to the contemporary moment (and the ones to come). So might our basic understandings of relationally itself, including what it means to participate in and care for a resolutely ‘thingy’ world, within and beyond the vast range of contexts that constitute human experience in the world.