Monday, December 4, 2023 - 5:15pm

Material Texts: Shannon Mattern: "First, Remove Screws: A Cultural History of the Repair Manual"

Class of 1978 Pavilion, sixth floor of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library

How to mend a damaged planet, a fractured democracy, a ruptured institution, a shattered iPhone? Perhaps we could devise cross-scalar strategies of repair by examining the history, politics, and aesthetics of the repair manual as a didactic genre, a bibliographic species, and a creative form. In this talk we'll explore how the manual functions as a means of “infrastructural inversion,” calling attention to the systems that enable infrastructures to function; and, through the work of various artists and designers, we’ll consider how the genre might allow us to translate between the individualized refurbishment of objects and the collective maintenance of systems and societies. In closing, we’ll investigate how myriad institutions, including our own, have deployed manuals, toolkits, dialogue series, and other instructional media in an attempt to mitigate social and political unrest. 

The Workshop in the History of Material Texts has been meeting weekly since its founding in 1993. Participants (including faculty, librarians, graduate and undergraduate students, booksellers and anyone else interested) come from a wide range of disciplines.

All are welcome to attend; ongoing attendance is not required, and many people come only to the occasional meeting. Meetings are held on Mondays at 5:15 in the Class of 1978 Pavilion, in the Kislak Center for Special Collections on the 6th floor of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center.