Call for Papers: Electronics Ecologies REPAIR
Author Loren Dela Cruz
Date 21 July 2023
Is electronics repair a right? And if so, who needs it?
The “Right to Repair” championed by consumers, advocates and entrepreneurs in recent years seems to be gaining traction. Policymakers around the world have responded to campaigns by iFixit, The Repair Association and other organizations with repairability ratings and guides, and legislation is advancing to discourage manufacturers from restrictive features such as proprietary fasteners and soldered-in components. A new wave of startups including Fairphone and Framework have found appreciative consumers for durable electronics, instigating a range of responses from established players who now promote repairable product concepts, “circular” design principles and a growing marketplace for parts, tools and manuals.
But even if a robust right to repair was enshrined by governments everywhere, would this stem the flood of e-waste generated by the existing business model for computer hardware? AI is just the latest in a long line of software hype cycles that have accelerated hardware disposability, created increased demand for specialized systems and components, and frustrated repair and reuse efforts. Even motivated companies cannot arrest the amount of physical hardware exhausted and abandoned in the move to a data-centric economy, and employees as much as consumers are left with little choice but to comply.
Given the dwindling supply of rare earth minerals, emissions from extraction, manufacturing and transport, and the staggering amount of electronics discarded and sent to hibernation globally every day, the benefits of keeping electronic devices in circulation for as long as possible seem obvious. But proprietary software, especially when deployed by vertically-integrated firms, erects barriers to the many social, commercial and ecological opportunities a healthy repair ecosystem creates.
The first in a new event series Electronics < > Ecologies organised by Melissa Gregg for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making & Society (ADM+S), REPAIR brings together expert practitioners, activists and researchers to discuss the planetary problem of electronics repair. We aim to broaden the current focus for repair activism to ask some fundamental questions: Can repairable electronics really solve the problem of product obsolescence? And what does electronics repair look like at scale?
Researchers interested in being considered for a select number of presentation opportunities should write a 2-page position paper outlining your current work in relation to one of the following themes:
- Use cases, success stories and new opportunities for repair and reuse
- Life cycle assessment: definitions, debates, deficiencies
- Deep dives on system designs, hacks and repair workarounds
- Commercial, B2B and B2C repair and refurbishment
- Repair technicians’ livelihoods and experiences
- Repair services and practices outside North America and Europe
- Cross cultural comparisons of repair: independent entrepreneurs, informal markets, franchises, large corporates
- Community, non-profit and non-metro repair
- Repair’s software dependencies: open source vs. proprietary options
- Repair and maintenance in Military, Government, Education and Enterprise IT
- AI’s role in repair: e.g. diagnostics, fleet level analytics, predictive services, materials assessment
As with all Electronics < > Ecologies events, scholars in the fields of cultural history, geography, media & communication, law, gender, indigenous and socio-technical studies are particularly welcome to apply, to counter the dominance of majority male engineering voices in debates about the future state of technology and its uses.
Send 2-page papers to firstname.lastname@example.org by August 4. Selected participants will be notified by August 14.
Electronics < > Ecologies #1 — REPAIR
Wednesday 30 August 2023
Griffith University, South Bank Campus
Virtual and in person attendance will be available. Registration details will be announced shortly.
Learn more about the Electronics < > Ecologies series by visiting admscentre.org.au/electronics-ecologies