The downgrade path: Conviviality in infrastructural decay

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Marisa Cohn, assistant professor at ITU and member of the TiP and IxD research groups, will be holding a talk on November 5. in the IxD Lab.


Many narratives of technological progress are supported by an idea that technology has a future of unlimited potential – one that will imminently resolve the problems that we defer until tomorrow. But as such narratives run out of steam, we can learn a lot by looking to later phases in the lives of technologies, when software systems and languages are retired, personal electronics become detritus, and infrastructures obsolesce and decay. Such moments can tell us about the effortful work to let go and pare down practices to match decaying systems. This talk will discuss the case of an aging and obsolescent infrastructure supporting a space science mission as it a approaches a known end. Such a case contributes to our understanding of the degrading path at the end-of-life of an infrastructure. Such a case reveals how work of infrastructure maintenance may reach the limits of repair and shift from repair-as-sustaining into a mode of repair-into-decay, actively working towards the end-of-life through negotiation of the multiple temporalities of aging, obsolescence, and decay.