Taplin + Mattern + Burrington

Jonathan Taplin’s “Letter to the millennials” does highlight some interesting realities of our current tech-revolution and how that impacts the value of our roles and labor as artists and makers in the face of the Silicon Valley giants and the monopolies they hold. It is indeed scary to see that the status and wealth is highly concentrated among these “digital monopolists”. That said, Taplin’s response is condescending and unaware of his own position of privilege in this conversation. He presents these problems and his “concern” as a call-to-action to our generation , full of generalized critique of millennials (thinking its not a big deal to get music and movies for free, parents spending $40,000 on education not for us to be part of ‘sharing economy’) without any responsibility for the ways in which his generation has contributed to and is affected by this current crisis moment and any support for moving forward collectively to fight the capitalist machine that creates and protects it.

Shannon Mattern’s article was interesting and I appreciated it as a way of thinking about how to decolonize infrastructure and innovation. I was moved by the idea of repair-thinking — maintenance and repair as a way of thinking about our world and the value of its buildings, objects, systems, etc. beyond capitalist value. I understand it as not an alternative to innovation but rather an integral component or rather a way to flip innovation — innovation as an integral part of maintaining. In the face of oversaturation, overstimulation, overpopulation and a waste crisis, this makes sense to me. We must fix what we have and the inventions and innovations that develop from fixing and adapting might be potentially more sustainable ways of making the world better.

Mattern is writes that maintenance does always require labor and about how complex this way of thinking is though in terms of race, gender, ability and economics and she notes that this project cannot happen individually — it must be a “collective project of repair”, one that is a “critical practice” that acknowledges and unravels issues of privilege, power, capitalism and colonialism.

At the beginning, she writes, “To study maintenance is itself an act of maintenance.” I would have liked to see this concept expanded on because I am interested in the role assessment and evaluation play in the process of maintenance and repair — who is doing that labor and how does its implicit bias factor into the complexity of race, ability, gender before the repairs even begin.

I really appreciated all of the art that was included in the piece and I look forward to watching some of the films she mentioned.