Maintaining Technological Worlds: Care and its ambivalences

On October 10th Marisa Cohn is convening a workshop called Maintaining Technological Worlds: Care and its ambivalences


The terminator – an image of self-sufficient, singular, durable, self-directed, autonomous technology – serves as a useful archetype for us to dismantle in this workshop by attending instead to the “subtle acts of care by which order and meaning in complex sociotechnical systems are maintained and transformed, human value is preserved and extended, and the complicated work of fitting to the varied circumstances of organizations, systems, and lives is accomplished.”(Jackson 2014)

Recent work to develop an analytic of “matters of care” in technoscience (Puig de la Bellacasa 2011) has examined care work in worlds of biology, agriculture, health and heritage often attending to the role of technologies in mediating care. In fact, technology has historically been viewed as care’s other. As Mol et al put it, “Care was nourishing, technology was instrumental. Care overflowed and was impossible to calculate, technology was effective and efficient” (Mol et al. 2010:14). But what happens when we apply the lens of care to consider the careof technology – the demands for forms of work that are needed to maintain and sustain technological worlds over time?

This workshop will take up this question by applying an analytic of “care” to a range of empirical cases drawn from the research of workshop participants. We will examine together the forms of care that emerge in cases of technoscientific work to maintain legacy systems, repair infrastructures, or sustain technological imaginaries. We will also explore our own ambivalences with the concept of care, through a discussion of the shifting boundaries and temporalities of care in our empirical cases as well as in our own research commitments, drawing upon Jackson to ask: “Why should we care about care?”

For the workshop we welcome some visiting researchers to TiP who will be sharing their empirical cases with us. Dylan Mulvin from the Social Media Collective at Microsoft Research New England will be presenting on the case of the Y2K bug. Göde Both from TU Braunschweig’s Gender Technology & Mobility Group will be presenting his case examining engineering research into self-driving vehicles.  These cases along with those offered by other workshop participants will be used as evocative objects to launch into a collaborative hands-on discussion of care.



de la Bellacasa, Maria Puig. “Matters of care in technoscience: Assembling neglected things.” Social Studies of Science 41.1 (2011): 85-106.

Mol, Annemarie, Ingunn Moser, and Jeannette Pols, eds. Care in practice: On tinkering in clinics, homes and farms. Vol. 8. transcript Verlag, 2015.

Jackson, Steven. “Rethinking Repair.” In Media Technologies: Essays on Communication, Materiality, and Society, edited by Tarleton Gillespie, Pablo Boczkowski and Kirsten Foot, 221–39. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2014.

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