Pandemic Urbanism

May 14, 2020

Maintaining, Making and “Making do” – Repair Cultures During COVID-19

By Ellan Spero (
MIT & Station1

Coauthors: Devon Olson, University of North Dakota; Ellen Stewart, Housing & Community Development, Town of Blacksburg VA

The author will give this presentation at the Pandemic Urbanism Symposium in a session titled “Resilience by Any Other Name,” from 2:00 – 3:00 PM on May 29, 2020.

Practices of repair, associated knowledge, tools, and communities have long-standing histories and enduring significance with a multiplicity of cultural associations including the practicality of thrift, commitment to environmental sustainability, and assertion of individuality and symbol of economic and social protest. The opportunities for, or barriers to repair help us to think about the social values embedded in the use and longevity of our material world.   This discussion of repair communities and individual practices in the time of social distancing, builds upon ongoing work presented at the conference, Maintainers III: Practice, Policy and Care (2019) and draws upon the experiences of Right-to-Repair advocates, historians of technology, and grassroots community workers and their work of advocating for repair and maintenance, such as holding Repair Cafes and building tool libraries, TimeBanking, and online adaptation to help and teach others to care for their goods and each other.