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Monday, October 7 • 11:15am - 12:00pm
Ways Forward

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This panel combines different visions for how to move maintenance research and practice forward including maintenance pedagogy; maintenance community design; organizational investments in preventative maintenance; artistic vehicles for centering maintenance labor; and imagining alternative border futures through critical play. After a brief introduction to our panelists’ work, we will engage in a facilitated discussion to explore shared themes, address challenges posed, and offer up concrete actions to co-create a more caring and well-maintained world.

Paper Abstracts

Juan Llamas-Rodriguez: "The Sewer Transnationalists: Sewage Maintenance and Designing Cooperation in the Border Region"

The Sewer Transnationalists is a critical speculative design project that redesigns the border region from the perspective of sewage flows. Taking the form of a cooperative board game (in the style of Pandemic or Forbidden Island), the project tasks users with solving the problem of sewage disposal across the border. Users take on the role of a different stakeholder (e.g. IBWC bureaucrats, pipe engineers, border citizen) and each turn they choose to undertake an action within their area of expertise. However, this is not a fully finished game. It allows users to rethink the structures of the board, including the map, as way to improve their chances at solving the sewage problem. The major obstacle turns out not to be winning the game (as in, fixing the sewage problem) but creating the conditions for which winning the game is possible at all. Following on critical design principles, the goal of the project is to engage users in thinking through the conceptual frameworks undergirding current solution attempts. The game itself functions first as a medium through which such frameworks can be tested and contested and second as a platform where speculative alternatives can be tried out.

Jilly Traganou: "Maintenance in Autonomy: Christiania’s Self-managed Infrastructures"

The paper will focus on infrastructural making and caretaking in Christiania Free Town. Christiania is an autonomous district of approximately 1,000 residents, established in 1971 as a squat in a former military area of Copenhagen. Christiania's self‐government is based on assemblies and consensual decision-making. After a 2004 Danish law forced Christiania to change its status to a foundation, initiating the treatment of its members as individuals, a period of “normalization” began, signaling a transition from “insurgent autonomy” to “regulated autonomy.” Christianites throughout their history have handled tasks like kindergartens, postal services, green areas and most infrastructural provision and maintenance in a self-organized manner. In the last years, Christiania undertook a plan of legalizing and renovating houses, as well as maintaining and further developing its infrastructure in accordance to a community-developed Green Plan. The paper will be based on material I collected as a researcher in residence in Christiania in the fall of 2018. Christiania has important lessons to offer both in its insurgent and regulated autonomy stages. Having been framed by the state as a “social experiment,” in my analysis, Christiania’s first era can be seen as a case of a prefigurative political action, based primarily on what I call “embodied infrastructures.”

Hong-An Wu: "Collective Technological Repair: Proposal for Pedagogical Practices"

As digital media making becomes increasingly popularized in K12 and community learning classrooms, art and media educators are faced with not only mastering digital technologies for curricular planning but also improvising with these disobedient objects during pedagogical exchanges. Drawing from my five-weeks action research project teaching digital art making, specifically video game modifications, with teens in a library setting, this paper examines repeated moments of technological breakdowns during teaching practices. Instead of interpreting these moments as failures, abandoning the objects, and resorting to a backup curriculum using analog technologies, I argue for developing a feminist pedagogical reorienting of teaching practices that utilize reparation to de-center these challenges. Instead of resorting to a backup curriculum when technologies break down in the classroom and placing the responsibility of maintenance and care of these machines solely on the instructor, I argue that technological troubleshooting should be oriented at the center of any curriculum. Repair in the form of troubleshooting not only requires domain-specific knowledge, but it also embodies acts of care that are often deprioritized under consumerist logic. When students are invited to the practice of repair in the classroom, they engage in inquiry-based learning around the domain-specific literacies as well as engage in shared risk, responsibility, and ownership of the curriculum and machines utilized.

Alex Reiss Sorokin: "From “Run it ‘til it breakes” to Preventative Care: Innovation in Repair and Maintenance Work"

“Run it ‘til it breakes” used to be the model of maintenance work at a large research university. Most maintenance work focused on reactive maintenance, the repair and replacement of broken pieces of equipment. With increased funding and outside consulting, the university decided to focus more on preventative maintenance. Rather than changing how repair and maintenance work is done, the university administration decided to establish a new team according to a new model, focused on preventative maintenance. Two teams of repairmen are now in charge of repair and maintenance, dividing the campus buildings and student dorms between them. Alongside the new model, new technologies for gathering data were implemented in both teams. This paper examines the two models in rhetoric and practice. First, I delve into the background of the two models. I tell the story of how optimization and professionalization led to a stronger focus on preventative maintenance and customer satisfaction. Second, based on ethnographic work, I describe how the organizational change looks like and feels like on the ground – from the perspective of the tradesmen who do maintenance work. While innovation and maintenance are often thought as opposites, this paper argues that sometimes innovation and maintenance need one another.

Kelly Pendergrast: "Visual Pleasure and Maintenance Cinema"

What does maintenance look like? Often it doesn’t look like much. The infrastructure, repair, and care work that supports the systems we rely on are both essential and hidden from view. Janitors clean the hallways after the offices have shut down for the day. Archivists toil in temperature-controlled basements. And even if this work is visible, it tends towards the unspectacular. Aside from a few exceptions, this comparative invisibility extends to the world of cinema and art. All of this means that maintenance is lacking a visual language. This paper investigates the ways we visualize maintenance in our cultural imagination and cultural production. Through a brief analysis of films—from Kings of the Road to Jeanne Dielman—that foreground maintenance work and maintenance workers, I argue that representing maintenance in film and art is an important, even revolutionary act. Drawing on theories of visual culture along with literature about representations of labor in film and art history, I argue that cinema and art can be essential contributors to a necessary reframing and valorizing of maintenance labor.

Abstracts may be edited due to character limits

Monday October 7, 2019 11:15am - 12:00pm EDT