What if we care about our technologies, and do so in more than a trivial way? (Jackson 232)
Discussion 1 — Innovation vs. Repair
Edison preferred to invent systems rather than components of other persons’ systems. During his long career as a professional inventor-entrepreneur, he turned to the invention of systems to such an extent that preference for systems can be identified as a salient characteristic of his approach. (Hughes 21)
What world does contemporary information technology inhabit? Is it the imaginary nineteenth-century world of progress and advance, novelty and invention, open frontiers and endless development? Or the twenty-first century world of risk and uncertainty, growth and decay, and fragmentation, dissolution, and breakdown?
This chapter is an exercise in broken world thinking. It asks what happens when we take erosion, breakdown, and decay, rather than novelty, growth, and progress, as our starting points in thinking through the nature, use, and effects of information technology and new media. (Jackson 221)
… the efficacy of innovation in the world is limited—until extended, sustained, and completed in repair. The remarkable qualities and energies that innovation names and unleashes—creativity, invention, imagination, and artfulness—are therefore distributed more broadly in the technology landscape than our dominant discourses of innovation and the systems of economic, professional, and social value built around them are keen to acknowledge. (Jackson 227)
Discussion 2 — Toward an Ontology of Brokenness
To repurpose Tolstoy, “All working technologies are alike. All broken technologies are broken in their own way.” (Jackson 228)
Following on the claims of Hegelian, Marxian, and feminist theorists, can we identify anything like a standpoint epistemology of repair? (Jackson 229)
Junkspace represents a reverse typology of cumulative, approximative identity, less about kind than about quantity. But formlessness is still form, the formless also a typology … Take the dump, where successive trucks discharge their loads to form a heap, whole in spite of the randomness of its contents and its fundamental shapelessness, or that of the tent-envelope that assumes different shapes to accommodate variable interior volumes. (Koolhaas 179)
Attending to the neglected elements of productive enterprise, as well as the infrastructural networks necessary to eliminate them, is necessary for apprehending what I refer to as the afterlife of the commodity, or, put otherwise, the fate of capitalism’s disjecta membra, and the people who tend to it. Such a reversal of the typical priority of the (aesthetic) product over what is sloughed off to make it creates space for the appreciation of a whole range of activities, which, from the vantage of classical political economy, would appear aneconomic—not strictly productive in that they generate no new value—but are nonetheless imbricated in everyday life and have become essential to the global economy’s ever-growing informal sector. Currently, there are an estimated 15 million people who work as wastepickers and, in a large portion of developing cities, their labor accounts for a substantial part, if not all, of the waste infrastructure that exists. (Ty 608)
As urban infrastructure is developed to facilitate the circulation of commodities and refuse, garbage takes on an increasingly prominent role in the realm of the aesthetic—continuing to appear in city narratives as an unavoidable element in the fabric of urban experience or as something that interrupts the aleatory path of the flaneur. In addition to the surrealist fascination with obsolescence, we might mark several literary developments that follow this new urban engagement with refuse. Infrastructural networks, along with the rubbish they traffic, become more fully integrated into the grammar of social realism, which is reflected in part by the expansion of the quarters and precincts that are allowed to appear in the field of novelistic representation (such as the waste room in Joyce’s “Araby” or the fetid women’s lavatory in Woolf’s “The Watering Place”). Occasionally, the fixation on waste, as attested by Bloom’s infamous read on the toilet, is mobilized more contentiously as a means of repudiating Victorian codes of propriety. And lastly, junk becomes invested with pseudoredemptive energies that derive their force from the hardly guaranteed possibility that out of waste will come creation. There are glimpses of hope—albeit fleeting ones—that something might regenerate from the “stony rubbish” of Eliot’s Waste Land…. And similarly, in the closing stanza of Yeats’s penultimate verse in Last Poems, the poetic image is said to emerge, not from mind pure and pristine, but from
A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street
Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
Old iron, old bones, old rags.