(Residential Fellow, 2017-18)
After Innovation: Maintenance, Care, and Our American Dreams
Lee Vinsel is an Assistant Professor of Science and Technology Studies at Virginia Tech. He earned his PhD in History and Policy at Carnegie Mellon University and did a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University before working for five years as a professor at Stevens Institute of Technology. His research focuses on the social dimensions of technological continuity and change, with particular focus on how government influences technology. His first book manuscript, which is currently under review at an academic press, examines the history of automobile regulation in the United States from 1893 to the present to track how government action has shaped technological change over time.
In 2015, Vinsel co-founded The Maintainers, a global, interdisciplinary research network that focuses on the maintenance, repair, and upkeep of technologies, rather than on traditional topics like invention and innovation. The vast majority of human effort goes not into creating or introducing new things but into keeping existing things going. Yet, scholars have given the mundane activities of maintenance and repair far less attention than they have innovation. To date, The Maintainers has been the subject of two conferences and several publications.
At Linda Hall, Vinsel will be doing research for a book related to The Maintainers. He will be examining library collections that, among other topics, reveal how engineering societies and businesses created maintenance and inspection practices; how designers built technologies that could be more easily maintained; and how the US government and military developed standards to limit constantly-rising maintenance and inspection costs.