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Sociomaterial intimacy: reflecting on loving, caring, and translating technology 
Roberta Spada (Politecnico di Milano, Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci)
Stefano Crabu (University of Padova)
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Traditional Open Panel

Short Abstract:

By considering both maintenance and repair, and care and affect, we call for looking at the sociomaterial order by analysing unnoticed (intimate) gestures and operations happening between human and non-human agents when repairing, caring for, loving, and translating technologies into action.

Long Abstract:

All everyday activities occur within composite and shifting sociomaterial assemblages. Notwithstanding their obduracy, their more or less recalcitrant scripts, and their opacity or transparency, technologies at work require constant care and maintenance to unfold their frameworks of action and fine-tune their affordances to the local and situated settings of interaction in which they are supposed to act.

While STS work on maintenance and repair has been growing rapidly, Ingold’s call for shifting the analytical gaze from the sociotechnical processes of “form-giving” to those of “form-keeping” remains crucial. For this shift to happen, we argue that attention to care (Puig de la Bellacasa) and affect (Turkle) towards the material is crucial for grasping the ways in which intimate processes and viewpoints between human and non-human agents sustain the performance of the sociomaterial order at large. How can we analyse the ensemble of unnoticed (intimate) gestures and operations, whether they are performed by technological specialists, workers, or laypeople during interactions with artefacts? How can we consider the kinds of “sociomaterial intimacy” between human and non-human agents at stake when repairing, caring for, loving, curating, and translating technologies into action? With this panel, we call for analysing the operations that, on a daily basis, shape and preserve the sociomaterial order in a broad range of domains, from laboratories to museums and from households and mundane spaces to highly technical and specialised settings.

We encourage scholars to submit theoretically, empirically, and methodologically oriented papers on:

- Repair operations in contexts of technological vulnerability, interruptions, and breakdown;

- Caring for technologies in and across scientific laboratories;

- Care and curatorial practices in (non-)institutionalised settings;

- Maintenance of artefacts and infrastructures;

- Caring for, repairing, and curating technologies in mundane settings;

- Out-of-law and unruly maintenance and repair; and

- Loving, repairing, and maintaining antique technologies.

Accepted papers:

Session 1
Session 2
Session 3