Redirect: “Maintaining Space” from The Maintainers Blog


A resident cleans a corridor in the abandoned convent known as Gesu, in Brussels April 18, 2013. Some 160 squatters including 60 children may face expulsion in Brussels when a 90-million-euro project by a Swiss developer to turn their dwellings into a luxury hotel and apartments gets the go ahead. Only a few metro stops from the European institutions and the city's touristic highlights, the Gesu church and convent have remained vacant for decades and were bought by Swiss developer Rosebud Heritage in 2007, who agreed that the property could be used as a squat until the works started. Most of the residents of the squat are immigrants coming from the Czech Republic, Spain, Brazil and Morocco, looking to settle in Belgium. Some families have lived in Belgium for many years and some have stayed in the squat for months. With monthly rents at the squat currently at about 25 euros per adult, it is unlikely that the current residents will be able to move into the new apartments once they are completed. Picture taken April 18, 2013. REUTERS/Yves Herman (BELGIUM - Tags: SOCIETY POVERTY REAL ESTATE BUSINESS IMMIGRATION) - RTX118GJ

A resident cleans a corridor in the abandoned convent known as Gesu, in Brussels April 18, 2013. Some 160 squatters including 60 children may face expulsion in Brussels when a 90-million-euro project by a Swiss developer to turn their dwellings into a luxury hotel and apartments gets the go ahead. Only a few metro stops from the European institutions and the city’s touristic highlights, the Gesu church and convent have remained vacant for decades and were bought by Swiss developer Rosebud Heritage in 2007, who agreed that the property could be used as a squat until the works started. Most of the residents of the squat are immigrants coming from the Czech Republic, Spain, Brazil and Morocco, looking to settle in Belgium. Some families have lived in Belgium for many years and some have stayed in the squat for months. With monthly rents at the squat currently at about 25 euros per adult, it is unlikely that the current residents will be able to move into the new apartments once they are completed. Picture taken April 18, 2013. REUTERS/Yves Herman

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.

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