Lee Vinsel (@STS_News) is an assistant professor of Science, Technology, and Society at Virginia Tech. Trained as a historian of technology, Lee’s early research focused on the relationship between government, regulation, and technological change. In 2015, he began working with Andrew Russell on a project that became The Maintainers, a global, interdisciplinary research network the examines maintenance, repair, and mundane labor with technology. In late 2018, The Maintainers, in collaboration with the Educopia Institute, received a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to forge connections between academic researchers and communities of maintenance practice.
InfoMaintainers: Maintenance and the Ethics of Care in Areas of Deep and Necessary Change
Abstract: There’s a lot of hype around “innovation” today, yet most human effort is aimed at keeping our society – especially existing systems – going rather than introducing change. And when it comes to this work of maintenance, we can often do much better both at maintaining things and at ensuring that Maintainers are recognized and rewarded. This talk will outline the history of The Maintainers, a global, interdisciplinary research network focused on maintenance, repair, and mundane work with technology. It will highlight the work of the InfoMaintainers, a working group of librarians, archivists, digital preservationists, and academics examining the maintenance of information and supporting technologies. A key point is that maintenance should not be aimed at preserving the status quo – bad and oppressive systems should not be maintained – but rather thinking more holistically about technological lifecycles and the work needed at each stage.