Conspicuous and inconspicuous repair: A framework for situating repair in relation to consumer practices and design research


Published by Science Direct, April 2021

Authors: Thomas Lee and Rachael Wakefield-Rann


This article identifies and analyses the implications of a common argument in recent repair literature that assumes the greater valuing of objects and repair in and of themselves is something that is likely to increase rates of repair across the population. This is particularly evident in a certain strand of research and accompanying vocational sentiments that interpret repair through the lens of design and an associated emphasis on materiality. We conceptualise this assumption in relation to a hypothesised opposing view, which is indifferent to the epistemic virtues of repair and, by contrast, places greater emphasis on the everyday practices enabled by acts of repair. Based on developments in the sociological studies of consumption, we propose a conceptualisation of these as ‘conspicuous and inconspicuous repair’. Research from a panel composed of expert designers is used as a context for discussing the assumptions that inform disciplinary aspirations of designers and how they relate more broadly to everyday practices. To conclude we suggest that, while the assumptions of some designers relating to the value of objects and repair can be misguided, they nonetheless have an important role to play in systemic reorientations to responsible production and consumption.


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