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Standby. On sociomaterial modes of organizing @EASST 4S 2020

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Event location
EASST 4S Conference "Locating and Timing Matters: Significance and agency of STS in emerging worlds"

This session is part of the ephemera special issue on Standby as Mode of Organizing

Standby. On sociomaterial modes of organizing

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.


Tue, August 18, 12:00 to 1:40pm CEST, virPrague, VR 03, Meeting link:

12.00 - 12.10: Introduction and object presentation

12.10 - 13.10: Panel 

  • Being on standby: On maintenance work in chronic disease management  Lisa Wiedemann, Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg, Germany
  • On standby for the apocalypse. Botanical Gardens as infrastructures of care Franziska Dahlmeier, University of Hamburg, Germany
  • Stay Tuned: Televised endurance as a standby-condition Alexa Faerber, University of Vienna, Austria
  • Quicksand: Understanding the city from its tenuous grounds Laura Kemmer and Frank Mueller, Free University Berlin, Germany        
  • Practices of sensing. Exploring the sociomateriality of standby Vanessa Weber, HafenCity University Hamburg, Germany
  • #standby - a short film Annika Kühn, University of Hamburg, Germany

13.10 - 13.20:  Discussant - Joe Deville, University of Lancaster, UK

13.20 - 13.40: Discussion

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