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Repairing Technology – Fixing Society?

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Event date: Thursday, 13 October 2022 09:00 am - Friday, 14 October 2022 05:00 pm
Place: Halle des poches à fonte
6 Av. des Hauts-Fourneaux
L-4362 Esch-sur-Alzette Esch-sur-Alzette

International conference on 13-14 October 2022 at the Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (C²DH).

Failures and breakdowns constitute an important element in the fundamental relationship between users and technology, and maintenance and repair are fundamental practices in everyday life. Stephen Graham and Nigel Thrift (2007) highlighted that “repair and maintenance are not incidental activities. In many ways, they are the engine room of modern economies and societies”. However, we still know very little about the actual developments of repair practices in the past and today. In his essay “Rethinking repair”, Steven Jackson (2014) therefore called for what he coined “broken world thinking”. He argues that we should take “erosion, breakdown, and decay, rather than novelty, growth, and progress, as our starting points” when we want to study consumption and use. Broken world thinking is an exercise in “infrastructural inversion”, a reversal of fore- and background to better understand the hidden, but fundamental practices of repair that keep our modern technical world running. Despite the prevailing master narrative that the advent of the consumer society caused a decline in repair, it has not become obsolete in modern consumer societies but has remained integral to their economic functioning.

Current repair advocates emphasise the sustainability of repair. We are interested in historical and contemporary discourses and critical reflections about the assumed relationship between maintenance, repair and (more) sustainable consumption. By discussing the epistemology, sociology, politics, economics, and histories of maintenance and repair, we would like to contribute to the growing field of repair studies. We are interested in repair in all its forms: from small objects to large technical systems, from the global North to the global South. The conference is open to various interdisciplinary approaches.



Thursday, 13 October 2022


Arrival of participants


Welcome by Stefan Krebs (University of Luxembourg, PI REPAIR)


Section 1: Repairing Infrastructures


Chair: Stefan Krebs


Maintenance and Political Economy: Fixing Submarine Cables to Reinvent Transatlantic Capitalism
Jacob Ward (Maastricht University)


Communicating Smoothly: Maintaining the Luxembourg Telephone Network
Rebecca Mossop (University of Luxembourg)


Coffee break


Section 1 (continued): Repairing Infrastructures


Repairing "Smart" Infrastructures: Sustainability Orientations in Tension Between Infrastructuring Publics
Madison Snider (University of Washington)


Iron Gates: The Study on Maintenance of the Hydro and Navigation System
Tijana Rupcic (Central European University, Vienna)


Lunch break


Visit Blast Furnace A


Section 2: Repair Ethnographies


Chair: Thomas Hoppenheit


Tinkering and Innovation in Medicine: Ethnographic Experiments for Studying Repair and Maintenance
Anna Harris (Maastricht University)


Materialize the Thought: the Production of Research Zines as a Tool in Studying Repair and Maintenance
Anaïs Bloch (Geneva University of Art and Design)


Coffee break


Section 2 (continued): Repair Ethnographies


Maintaining Shoes/Feet
Chris Hesselbein (Politecnico di Milano)


Repair Work as Craft and Career: Insights from the Apprenticeship Journey in Classic Car Restoration
Ödül Bozkurt (University of Sussex Business School)


Keynote: Repair, Maintenance, and Infrastructure Studies: The Promise (and Perils?) of an "Emerging Field"
Christopher Henke (Colgate University)




Friday, 14 October 2022


Section 3: Repairing Objects


Chair: Rebecca Mossop


The Politics of Everyday Repair Opportunities
Thomas Hoppenheit (University of Luxembourg)


Wasted Time / The Emergence of a Throwaway Culture Using the Example of Clocks and Watches
Thomas Schütz (Stuttgart University)


Modest Technology: Repairing Radio Sets in Socialist China
Yingchuan Yang (Columbia University)


Coffee break


Section 4: Repairing Hard- and Software


Chair: Stefan Krebs


The broken world of refugee apps? Towards sustainability of mobile applications
Olga Usachova (University of Padova)


Abdallah Zouhairi (University Hassan II. Casablanca)
Repair and Democratisation of Distance Learning During Covid-19


Lunch break


Section 4 (continued): Repairing Hard- and Software


Maintenance and Repair as Innovation? Software Systems and the Case of Climate Models
Matthias Heymann (Aarhus University)


Project ATENA: Born to be Outmoded. Emotions and the Technopolitical Construction of Obsolescence in the History of Computing
Ginevra Sanvitale (Eindhoven University of Technology)


Closing remarks Stefan Krebs

REPAIR conference 2022