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Finding the potential for junk in technological rupture, breakdown and repair 
Rebecca Carlson (Toyo University)
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Ryo Morimoto (Brandeis University)
Marije Miedema (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen)
Stephanie Ketterer Hobbis (Wageningen University)
Combined Format Open Panel

Short Abstract:

Junk is potential, a state of transformation. Junk is not trash, although it can be. Junk is that object or person which can be moved between regimes of value, but not always easily. Junk describes, not the thing itself, but the sociocultural categories of worth we apply to, or frame onto, things.

Long Abstract:

This panel argues that the concept of junk can be a productive way to collate acts of disintegration and repair, removal and reformatting—which make up so much of our technologically-mediated everyday lives—as all part of the same transformative process. Theoretically, we tend to figure technological breakdown as an exception to the norm, and position trash and waste as part of a linear movement into uselessness. Yet, this can erase attention to acts of repurposing (what’s been thrown away) and the continued evolution of things that have been trashed, the new life that springs from rot. Junk on the other hand has been used to describe a more nonlinear state of potential, a possibility for things to be moved between regimes of value. It describes, not the thing or person itself, but the sociocultural categories of worth/lessness we apply to, or frame onto, these. Junk can help researchers ask specifically about the formulations of power which define purity and value in the first place, and the forms of labour that are given over to the maintenance or disassembly of things. Junk can help us interrogate sociotechnical imaginations of efficiency, neoliberal self-making and the good working order, and draw attention back to reuse and renewal which capitalist mechanisms work on us to forget. In this panel, junk is an invitation to explore the productive, yet often made invisible, cycles of technologic dis/use and dis/repair. We will use the concept of junk to ask how things are made into trash and under what conditions they may be reclaimed; how the things themselves resist or settle these categorizations as out of our hands; and to draw out the other multi-species possibilities and potentials which linger in trash heaps.

Accepted contributions: