[I’m doing this one in forty-five minutes before new student orientation, so.]

0. Letter from Eds.

  • “For the last 5, 10, 20 or 100 years (pick your starting point!), a motley and heterogeneous band of thinkers from Europe, North America, and the world have grown suspicious of the stories we tell about objects as stable and therefore rather settled things (whose drama, if any, inheres only at moments of design); and the way these stories render invisible a whole range of human relationships with and to objects that turn out to be central to sustaining the worlds around us, however provisional.”
  • Questioning: “the presumption that most or all that is interesting and worth caring about in objects is accomplished at the moment of design.”
  • “If repair defines and connects humans and the built environment, it is no less central to human engagements in what we once called, rather quaintly and before the anthropocene moment, the ‘natural world.”
  • “‘Repair studies’ as it shows up in this special issue, is perhaps best seen as a meshwork for finely sift through a set of concerns related to media making and studies, disaster preparedness and risk management, the negentropic energies of organisations, individual and institutions, and souci de soi.”

1. Cohn, “Lifetime Issues”

  • “This conflict between two theories of the craft, touches upon a divide between two career identities and domains of knowledge at the Lab – between the work of designing, developing, and launching missions and that of operating and maintaining them.”
  • Division b/t “Dev” and “Ops”: “From Julie I heard that this truism reflects the sense that operations work involves uses and conditions that were never ‘intended’ in the original design, something which significantly perturbs developers who cannot bear to see the purity of their designs altered.”
  • “While there are many sources of disruption to routine work on a mission, lifetime issues are those that are attributed to the aging of the craft, precipitated not by any particular occurrence so much as by the very longevity of the craft.”; “Lifetime issues, rather than residing strictly in the time of maintenance, draw together multiple moments from across the life of an artifact.”
  • “Lifetime issues are a particular strain of mess which arises not only from the deferrals of design but from the deferrals that are inherent in any decision, they form a kind of wake of decisions that have been lived with for a long time.”

3. Dib, “Sonic Breakdown”

  • “This soundtrack features sounds of environmental as well as technological extinction. Of course, one cannot speak of extinction without first addressing a breakdown of sorts, a breakdown of what was once sustainable. Restoration ecology seeks to reverse damage brought on to ecosystems by man and seeks to prevent ongoing degradation in order to preserve what is left of our landscapes and their multi-species inhabitants. This repair may be seen as a form of care, an extension of longevity, an attempt to ward off what is beyond repair: extinction.” cf Heise & broader anxieties around de-extinction, geoengineering, and levying technologies against the Anthropocene.

4. Farman, “Repair and Software”

  • “What is the status of objects in the digital age? How do you archive and maintain something like a mobile app?”: The disarticulation (I won’t say dematerialization) of the software object challenges normal technology studies approaches to repair.
  • “Much scholarly and practical work on repair and maintenance, as Peter Sandborn notes, centers on the hardware life cycle; however, in most complex systems, ‘software life cycle costs (re-design, re-hosting and re-qualification) contribute as much or more to the total life cycle costs as the hardware, and the hardware and software must be concurrently sustained.’”
  • Case study of attempting to fix screen and battery in an iPhone 3GS, which required an OS update barred from it b/c of its age: “Yet, its obsolescence points to one of the major challenges repair cultures will face in the coming years. While the technologies themselves can be repaired (i.e., screens and batteries replaced, headphone jacks or home buttons repaired), the software running these devices—especially as they connect to databases that store the content of the apps being run on the phone—are creating technologies that cannot be used according to the original design of the device. These devices thus become shadows of their original selves or become repurposed for alternative uses.”
  • “The ‘update’ is often positioned as a positive for consumers of digital technologies and typically represents an advancement in product capability and features.” cf Chun. Updating begun w/ the Ford Model-T.
  • “As the corporations that design and maintain these apps go out of business, massive areas of mobile life are no longer accessible and are, to date, not archived in a way that mirrors the functionality Internet Archive for websites. This recently became pronounced to me as I was giving a guest lecture on my book Mobile Interface Theory. Published in early-2012, I noticed that nearly every app I discussed in the book was now obsolete and missing from the app stores.” Archival black holes.
  • “Here, there is no ability to archive an older machine to access older content since the content exists on a separate machine altogether such as a cloud server. This is ultimately divorced from the familiar scene of the repair collective bringing in older technologies to be fixed. Instead, we face distinct and growing repair challenges in the age of mobile software, as objects no longer cohere at the physical level, but are instead spread out among devices, databases, and app downloads such that objects become void of the content they seek to hold.”

6. Forlano, “Maintaining the Multiple Subject”

  • Applies “broken world thinking” (Jackson) to auto-immune disorder: “Like broken world thinking, broken body thinking complicates common discourses about around science, innovation and infrastructure and, ultimately, about ourselves. This lens reveals the ways in which new technologies maintain, repair and care for the disabled cyborg body. At the same time, I can reflect my own participation in the maintenance, repair and care for these technologies. These intimate infrastructures are composed of both human and non-human patients and caregivers.”
  • “My care for the pump also reveals the significance of the attachment and intimacy that I feel for these medical things. Yes, there are times when I can be without them, such as when showering or going for a swim. But, for the most part, I am with them and they are with me. In the words of Susan Leigh Star, ‘For material artifacts, this goes beyond the instrumental or functional relations that usually characterize the attachments between people and things. Care brings the worlds of action and meaning back together, and reconnects the necessary work of maintenance with the forms of attachment that so often (but invisibly, at least to analysts) sustain it.’”
  • Methodology of participation and becoming-aware.
  • “Second, broken body thinking collapses the scale of broken world thinking. Large scale, long-term, important and complex problems in adaptive and dynamic socio-technical systems can be understood through their intimate entanglement with mundane, moment-to-moment decisions of everyday life.” Disability + infrastructure studies.

11. Houston, “The Timeliness of Repair”

  • Temporality of repair: “Repair work is a deeply timely affair. The language that we use to describe repair action evokes important senses of rhythm, duration and precedence.”; “This short paper explores the temporal dynamics of a particular category of repair work, namely the livelihood maintenance and mending of mobile phones in Kampala, Uganda.”
  • “Repair as ‘return’ means moving back along a linear conception of time. But to think about repair (and the world) in this way is to obscure the complex forms of change - and their temporal unfolding - that both lead to breakdown and are enacted through repair work.”
  • “In contrast, in this paper I explore a notion of repair built around differentiation. In doing so, I build on two bodies of literature that have profoundly challenged the role and status of material objects in the social world. Actor network theory and its aftermath has emphasised emergent networks of associations and hybrid relations between actors and agencies achieving only partial and temporary stabilities as objects. Material culture studies and feminist new materialism(s) have underscored the processual character of materials, which in their state of flux always exceed stable object positions or signifiers.”
  • “These slow changes take on a different temporal rhythm, catalysing as event, when tarnished surfaces stop the phone from working - and practices of communication are interrupted. A story of repair as return would foreground the ontological holism of the object restored. But repair as differentiation gestures towards the micro-temporalities of always-changing lively matter, as it tips over into the indeterminate register of breakdown. The conductive materials are renewed, but only by removing a layer of material through human and chemical action. This leaves in turn its own legacy in the form of toxic residues in the skin and body of the technician.”
  • “Plastic long outlasts its useful duration as a phone housing, a keypad or a battery container. The horizon for the decay of plastics runs to hundreds or thousand of years. These are forms of accumulation and endurance that extend far beyond the lifetimes of technicians, from which there will not be repair – as return or otherwise.”

12. Lepawsky et al., “Repair-scapes”

  • “Our question is not to suggest that temporal aspects of repair are easy, uncomplicated, or without their own deeply contested politics. Our goal instead, is to draw attention to what is gained when we understand repair spatially.” This is, after all, a group of geographers.
  • “In conclusion, the breakage, damage, rupture, violence, malfunction, erasure, and other forms of harm that repair address are always spatial in nature, and so strategies of repair are also spatial. By tracing spatiality in addition to temporality in repair practices we can open new analytical vistas for looking at how power and politics are implicated in repair and disrepair. Moreover, because space is always an ongoing “sphere of relations, of contemporaneous multiplicity, and always under construction”, it means that these politics are never complete. Consequently, sites of repair can be revisited and reanalyzed even after repair has “fixed” the motherboard, stitched up the river, decreased levels of contamination, and finished its ceremony. Since continuity is never guaranteed in advance (and discontinuity always a risk), repair politics – and their spatio-temporalities – are never done.”

13. Lindström/Ståhl, “Plastic Imaginaries”