Posts Tagged ‘repair’

As befits advocates of ‘slow’ living, here at EarthQuaker we’re just now working our way through last year’s New Yorker magazines.

Back in May, Steven Shapin reviewed books about technology and innovation. One interesting point he discusses is the connection between technology and maintenance.

The importance of maintenance becomes even clearer if we take a global view. . . . as things get older they tend to move from rich countries to poor ones, from low-maintenance to high-maintenance environments. In many African, South Asian, and Latin-American countries, used vehicles imported from North America, Western Europe, and Japan live on almost eternally, in constant contact with numerous repair shops. Maintenance doesn’t simply mean keeping those vehicles as they were; it may mean changing them in all sorts of ways—new gaskets made from old rubber, new fuses made from scrap copper wire.

It’s a perspective that’s both refreshing and almost completely alien to American consumer culture. The dollar costs of a repair in the US (if you can even find someone to do it) relative to just buying a new version of whatever you broke means that repair is something most Americans never consider for a huge range of goods.

While Shapin’s main concern is to show what thinking about maintenance does to our concept of innovation, it impacts our wider understanding of consumer culture, too.

If we used an environmental lifecycle accounting model to price all goods, for example, repair would become much more economically attractive.

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