When to Care: Temporal Displacements and the Expertise of Maintenance Workers in Public Transport

  • Tobias Röhl


Fueled by digital developments modern wage labor is increasingly subject to new forms of temporal objectification. In the field of public transport, maintenance workers must deal with two recent developments. Predictive maintenance and the digital tracking of time temporally displace maintenance and repair work. When dealing with disruptions, such systems favor anticipatory measures and retrospective evaluation over work practices in the immediate aftermath. This challenges the professional expertise of workers and limits their ability of caring for the infrastructure on their own terms. While this limits the scope of practical knowledge in dealing directly with disruptions, it also opens up new avenues for autonomy and creates opportunities for reevaluing practical knowledge in other areas. The ability to improvise is increasingly important given that the systems are often unreliable and operate on the basis of vague assumptions. Instead of a de-skilling, a temporal shift occurs. Practical knowledge becomes important beyond immediate repair practices, namely before and after disruptions are dealt with.


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22 Apr 2024
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