SFB 1187 ›Medien der Kooperation‹ an der Universität Siegen
Abendvortrag Werkstatt Praxistheorie – David Pontille: „Urban Mobility, Information Infrastructures, Maintenance: The Case of Paris Subway Signs“
Mittwoch, 26. Oktober 2016, 18:00 Uhr Organisiert A04 - Normale Betriebsausfälle. Struktur und Wandel von Infrastrukturen im öffentlichen Dienst
Urban Mobility, Information Infrastructures, Maintenance: The Case of Paris Subway Signs
David Pontille
Research Professor
Centre de Sociologie de l'Innovation
Ecole des Mines ParisTech

Written objects have been extensively studied in semiology, visual anthropology and sociology, and a large body of work focused on the interpretation of signs. In the case of directional signs, studies have stressed out the complexity of on-site adjustments to find one's way and the inventiveness of riders. Such a user-centric perspective offers an asymmetrical account of the articulation between humans and signs. While users activities are rich and made up of ingenuity, the written object itself is pared-down, mostly considered as a stable and inert artefact. In other words, the agency lies exclusively in the eye of the beholder.

In this presentation, I suggest to step aside from the interpretation and uses of signs in order to surface the work that actually make them stand and last. Drawing on an ethnographic study of the Paris subway wayfinding system, I will insist that the mere presence and persistence of signs in a given space are the fragile result of a twofold continuous working process: design operations dedicated to the shaping of signs' properties and their environment; repair and maintenance practices oriented towards a daily consideration the fragility and vulnerability of signs. Shedding light on such a careful work is a way to contribute to the ongoing debates about information infrastructures by discussing three different aspects: graphical ecology, materiality, maintainability.

Coffee and water from 17h45
The lecture is followed by a workshop on October 27


Universität Siegen
Campus Am Herrengarten
AH 228
Am Herrengarten 3
57068 Siegen


SFB 1187 - Medien der Kooperation
Prof. Dr. Jörg Potthast
SFB 1187 - Medien der Kooperation
Dr. Sebastian Gießmann

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