Beyond Breakdown: Exploring Regimes of Maintenance

Denis, Jérôme; Pontille, David

This article makes a first step into questioning the diversity of maintenance practices. How can we understand the differences in the ways things are taken care of? What can we learn from the variety of justifications for objects to be mended, fixed, patched up, or patiently restored? In which conditions are these operations considered as important or negligible? To address these questions, the authors examine three dimensions that can help in identifying regimes of maintenance: the distribution of maintenance practices, the kinds of objects that are enacted through them, and the ecology of the visible and invisible at play in the various ways maintenance work is accomplished and organized. Using several examples, they outline two distinct regimes in which these dimensions are configured in radically different manners.