Histories of Technology’s Persistence: Repair, Reuse and Disposal
International workshop at the Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (C²DH), University of Luxembourg
7-8 December 2018
Submission deadline: 2 July 2018
The everyday use of technology involves practices of maintenance and repair but also raises questions of reuse and removal, dismantling and disposal. According to Stephen Graham and Nigel Thrift (2007: 19), repair and maintenance constitute “the engine room of modern economies and societies”. The current “maintainers network” (Russell/Vinsel 2018) argues for an emphasis on maintenance instead of the traditional focus on invention and innovation in the field of history of technology. Indeed, we still know surprisingly little about the history of repair, reuse and disposal practices. In his plea for a history of “technology-in-use”, David Edgerton (2008: 81) summarised: “Unfortunately we are not in a position to give an overview of the main trends in the history of maintenance and repair. Has maintenance as a proportion of output gone up or down? Where there has been a trade-off between initial cost and maintenance, what have producers and consumers gone for?” We still lack answers to these questions, which is why we are organising a workshop to bring together historians of maintenance and repair.
Furthermore, we want to combine our focus on maintenance and repair with issues of reuse, dismantling and disposal. Repair, reuse and removal are closely interlinked phenomena related to the lives and persistence of technologies, and they go beyond the question of innovation: When technical artefacts become old and outworn, decisions have to be taken as to whether it is necessary, worthwhile or possible to maintain and repair them, to reuse or dismantle them for different purposes, or to get rid of them. And these decisions depend among other factors on the availability of second-hand markets, repair infrastructures and dismantling or… read more