Communication is maintenance: turning the agenda of media and communication studies upside down


This paper proposes that communication and media studies should refocus on maintenance. Indeed, maintenance theory can help underestimated aspects of communication infrastructures emerge. First, maintenance shows the similarity of communication and transportation infrastructures, which overlap to the extent that the two fields of study can no longer be separated. Second, maintenance shows the persistence of communication infrastructures over time. Infrastructures are seldom replaced, and even more rarely closed down, new communication networks do not replace old ones, but they overlap with them. Consequently, this focus makes clear the need to study communication in longue durée or at least in long-term perspectives. Thirdly, the decision to maintain a communication network or infrastructure is a political one. Communication studies have often focused on political decisions on innovation, while maintenance offers a new way to look at centralization, delegation, sabotage to infrastructures, and the political responsibilities of making communications function. Finally, thanks to maintenance, the material dimension of communication can be more visible. This allows the integration of the new agendas of STS and of media archaeology, with the emergence of topics such as malfunctions or technical jobs, which are often considered out of the scope of communication studies

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22840753n17p7

Keywords: Communication studies; media studies; maintenance; communication infrastructures; transportation; persistence; power; materiality

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