Blanca Callén and I collaborate with an article in a special issue of Tecnoscienza we are particularly happy to take part in: a whole exploration on ‘Maintenance & Repair in Science and Technology Studies‘ edited by our colleagues Jérôme Denis, Alessandro Mongili & David Pontille (thank you for the editorial work!).
Our text (see below for more information) is an exploration on “mending cultures” and their modes of “care for matter” understood from the “vulnerability tests” there being mobilised. It derives from a presentation in 2013’s CRESC conference, where we attempted to think comparatively on our projects on DIY technical aids and e-waste. Despite this comparison is something we might work a bit further in future publications, I’d like to thank once more Blanca for her generosity in allowing me to “think with” the materials of her very interesting project “Scrapping Politics”
Vulnerability Tests. Matters of “Care for Matter” in E-waste Practices
Abstract: In this paper we will think ethnographically about how material vulnerability is dealt with and conceived of in the practice of informal menders. We explore different practices to “care for matter”, mobilized in dealing with obsolete computers, categorized as electronic waste, and will analyse the epistemic repertoires to acknowledge and intervene in such computers vulnerabilities. In dialogue with STS and Repair and Maintenance Studies literature, we will move from vulnerability as an ontological quality of the world to the enacted properties and epistemic repertoires emerging from concrete “tests”, through which we might learn how vulnerability matters. In particular, we pay attention to three specific vulnerability tests performed by these informal menders, underpinning particular distributions of labour as well as concrete enactments of vulnerability, and how to make it matter. Namely, sensing matter: manipulative practices of electronic waste whereby vulnerability is enacted as a property of materials; setting up informal experiments: informal practices of trial and error whereby vulnerability appears as a result of dis/functioning technical systems; and intervening in obsolescence: whereby sociomaterial orders regulate how material vulnerabilities are redistributed and put to the test.
Keywords: maintenance & repair; matters of care; vulnerability; test; electronic waste.
Image credits ‘Waste-picker in the squatted warehouse in Barcelona extracting some copper pieces welded in a motherboard’ CC BY Blanca Callén