Panel organizer: Laura Kemmer, Annika Kühn, Birke Otto and Vanessa Weber
Standby, in its technical sense, refers to devices that are neither on nor off. It designates an operating state in which despite apparent shutdown energy continues to flow to guarantee sudden reactivation. This closed panel explores how standby acts as a sociomaterial mode of organizing: Mobile digital devices catapult everyday lives into a constant state of readiness, infrastructures are set “on hold” to anticipate energy transitions, and moments of apparent “unproductivity” are integrated into capitalist cycles of reuse, maintenance and
care. Standby creates latent and more-than-human assemblages that are under constant tension. From the seemingly motionless state of self-tracking devices to a power plant’s production stoppage, standby is accompanied by a nervous humming, ticking and pulsating of bodies and things. We have collected conceptual, analytical and methodological explorations of standby that scrutinize the frictions and forces of such a mode of ‘active inactivity’: What happens in the moments between of ‘being on’ and ‘being off’? How does the in-between of stillness and movement become operable? How does standby allow for the regulation and synchronization of a vast set of people, things, natural elements, and technologies? How is it coordinated into a collective composition that involves divisions of labor, degrees of control and joint objectives? Considering standby as a mode of organizing has sociopolitical implications: It’s inherent tension as not-so-static standstill carries a transformative potential, yet at the same time standby’s ticking rhythm might lull us in and limit capacities to act against the harmful conditions of our contemporary lifeworlds.