CFP: Unmaking Technologies: The Afterlife of Discarded Artifacts and Systems

Call for Papers: “Unmaking Technologies” Panel, Society for the History of
Technology (SHOT) Annual Meeting, 4-7 October 2012, Copenhagen

Unmaking Technologies: The Afterlife of Discarded Artifacts and Systems

****We are looking for a third and fourth paper for our proposed panel on “Unmaking Technologies” at the Annual SHOT meeting (4-7 Oct 2012, Copenhagen)*****

STS scholars—in particular the subfields of the Social Construction of Technologies (SCOT) and more recently, ANT– have made significant contributions for thinking about the connections between the making and the made of technologies. Connecting the process of making with the made renders visible the co-productive relationships between artifacts, actors, and the economic, cultural and environmental
landscapes in and through which technologies are constituted.

What the field has largely overlooked, however, is the relationship between the process of “unmaking” and the made. This panel on the “Unmaking of Technology” attempts to address this theoretical and empirical gap. With a few notable exceptions such as Edgerton’s work (2006), it is as if the moment
a technology is discarded it simply vanishes. We propose that the afterlife of technologies is a worthy topic for social scientific and historical analysis. We build on insights from the emerging interdisciplinary field of “discard studies” to extend and rethink histories of technologies to include their afterlives.

However, we suggest that the notions of “wasting” or “divestment” run the risk of implying a certain
finality and endpoint to an artifact’s lifecycle. Instead we introduce the concept of “unmaking” to highlight the complex social and material processes that materially and discursively transform technologies once they have been initially discarded. Unmaking involves people, things, relationships, ecologies and structures all situated in particular places and times.

We seek contributions that address the afterlife or second life of technologies. How are technologies and systems de-constructed, deactivated, dismantled, or reused? In what ways does the afterlife of technologies inform or shape identities, environments and new technologies? Our panel thus far consists of a paper on the unmaking of e-waste in the early 21st century and the unmaking of bulk waste in the postwar consumer society. We are particularly interested in papers that focus on the dismantling of technical complexes or the re-use of technologies in the past.

Please, respond off list in the upcoming days (latest by 22nd of March) to:

The deadline to hand in abstracts, CVs and proposals is end of March.

Djahane Salehabadi
Department of Development Sociology
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
14850 USA

Dr. Heike Weber
Technische Universität Berlin
Institut für Philosophie, Wissenschaftstheorie,
Wissenschafts- und Technikgeschichte
Straße des 17. Juni 135, 10623 Berlin

An electric paper shredder re-configured as a hand-cranked device by the Fixers Collective, Brooklyn, NYC.