Infrastructural reconfiguration through repair and maintenance work

Authors: Ignaz Strebel*, Institute of Geography and Sustainability, University of Lausanne (Switzerland), Alain Bovet, HEG - Haute école de gestion Arc, Neuchâtel (Switzerland) and Institute of Geography and Sustainability, University of Lausanne
Topics: Urban Geography, Communication, Cultural Geography
Keywords: repair, maintenance, labour, infrastructure, energy transition, incremental innovation
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 6:20 PM
Room: Balcony N, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Reporting from an ethnographic research project at the Institute of Geography and Sustainability, University of Lausanne, this paper proposes a reflection on repair and maintenance work and its contribution to infrastructural and social transitions. During routine and emergency interventions on building technology in residential buildings, technicians and service workers engage in various interactions with users, residents, landlords, work colleagues and specialists. How do facility workers deal with expectations on the living environment of their interlocutors? How do they solve problems and how are infrastructures reconfigured in situ? What is the socio-political relevance of this new understanding of infrastructures?

Seen from the perspective of repair and maintenance work, infrastructure is accomplished in and through improvisation and incremental innovation. As the paper will show, these work practices are crucial for the ways infrastructures ‘comes to matter’ for the people who live and work in residential buildings. Referring to detailed data from our ethnographic research, we intend to demonstrate in addition that new organizational regimes (imposed by the managerialisation of facility services in the residential sector) are accomplished through repair and maintenance practices and that they have a clear impact on the ways infrastructures and their socio-material components are reconfigured.

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