The Study of Maintenance
Shannon Mattern writes an intellectual exploration of maintenance.
"This is not an article about how the world is breaking down," writes Mattern. "What we really need to study is how the world gets put back together."
Mattern is talking about the "everyday work of maintenance, caretaking, and repair":
In many academic disciplines and professional practices — architecture, urban studies, labor history, development economics, and the information sciences, just to name a few — maintenance has taken on new resonance as a theoretical framework, an ethos, a methodology, and a political cause. This is an exciting area of inquiry precisely because the lines between scholarship and practice are blurred. To study maintenance is itself an act of maintenance. To fill in the gaps in this literature, to draw connections among different disciplines, is an act of repair or, simply, of taking care — connecting threads, mending holes, amplifying quiet voices.
Before maintenance can challenge innovation as the dominant paradigm, we’ll need to build a bigger public stage. The current discourse is tilted toward economists, engineers, and policymakers — and they’re a pretty demographically homogeneous group.
To focus this inquiry, Mattern separates maintenance into four scales: Rust, Dust, Cracks, and Corruption (the last is described as the maintenance of data.