Vulnerability Tests. Matters of “Care for Matter” in E-waste Practices
Keywords:maintenance & repair, matters of care, vulnerability, test, electronic waste
In this paper we will think ethnographically about how material vulnerability is dealt with and conceived of in the practice of informal menders. We explore different practices to “care for matter”, mobilized in dealing with obsolete computers, categorized as electronic waste, and will analyse the epistemic repertoires to acknowledge and intervene in such computers vulnerabilities. In dialogue with STS and Repair and Maintenance Studies literature, we will move from vulnerability as an ontological quality of the world to the enacted properties and epistemic repertoires emerging from concrete “tests”, through which we might learn how vulnerability matters. In particular, we pay attention to three specific vulnerability tests performed by these informal menders, underpinning particular distributions of labour as well as concrete enactments of vulnerability, and how to make it matter. Namely, sensing matter: manipulative practices of electronic waste whereby vulnerability is enacted as a property of materials; setting up informal experiments: informal practices of trial and error whereby vulnerability appears as a result of dis/functioning technical systems; and intervening in obsolescence: whereby sociomaterial orders regulate how material vulnerabilities are redistributed and put to the test.