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Chapitre D'ouvrage Année : 2023

Before Breakdown, After Repair: The Art of Maintenance

Jérôme Denis
David Pontille


In science and technology studies, an important amount of research work has described the place of technology in modern societies by focusing on a particular form of failure: breakdowns. Investigated in close relationship with the repair operations that follow them, breakdowns have been extensively analysed as exceptional moments during which sociomaterial assemblages are "opened up," discussed, and then put back in order. While acknowledging the relevance of such an approach, this chapter focuses on what the binary dynamics of breakdown and repair leave out of the theoretical discussion. It suggests conceptually distinguishing, at least temporarily, the frequently equated notions of maintenance and repair, so as to further explore the mundane situations that come before breakdown and after repair. Thinking with maintenance, the chapter argues, helps us understand material fragility as a common feature rather than a deviation from the norm, and to highlight the repetitive and distributed activities that are undertaken to take care of things. This analytical move leads to a reconsideration of failure itself, which appears not so much as a hiatus or a disruptive event as an everyday part of the relationships between humans and things.
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hal-03960171 , version 1 (27-01-2023)


  • HAL Id : hal-03960171 , version 1


Jérôme Denis, David Pontille. Before Breakdown, After Repair: The Art of Maintenance. Adriana Mica; Mikołaj Pawlak; Anna Horolets; Paweł Kubicki. Routledge International Handbook of Failure, Routledge, pp.209-222, 2023, 9780367404048. ⟨hal-03960171⟩
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