In the first part of April 2016 I participated in a fascinating conference with the title, “The Maintainers,” held at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. The premise was simple, but enormously understudied. As a society we celebrate “innovators” and “innovation.” At the same time, most of what we do, at least in the context of technology, is not innovative. It is mostly about maintaining what already exists. Perhaps we should focus scholarly attention on that. The presentations discussed various aspects of maintenance in the history of technology.
The conference drew a great attendance, and received some notice from the local media. Laura Bliss wrote a story about the conference, and its premise, in Citylab.com. It may be found here. Lee Vinsel, a co-organizer of the conference, is quoted in the story as saying that the emphasis on innovation is misplaced: “In a culture where we forget about things like crumbling infrastructure and wage inequality, those narratives about technological change can be really dangerous.”
The conference has generated enough interest for Vinsel to create a blog as a means of communicating about this issue. On April 26, the first substantive post on the Maintainers Blog was published. Historian Yulia Frumer writes about “Maintaining Space” (in Japan) here. Enjoy.