- This event has passed.
Electronics < > Ecologies #1 — REPAIR
30 August 2023
REPAIR is the first workshop in a series created by Dr Melissa Gregg. The Electronics <> Ecologies series aims to map the environmental costs of AI.
Is electronics repair a right? And if so, who needs it?
Consumers’, advocates’, and resellers’ demands for a “Right to Repair” seems to be gaining broader acceptance. Policymakers around the world have responded to campaigns from groups including iFixit and The Repair Association with repairability ratings and guides, effectively discouraging manufacturers from continuing restrictive features such as proprietary fasteners and soldered-in components. A new wave of startups including Fairphone and Framework have found a significant and growing market for durable consumer electronics, and have provoked a range of responses from established players who are now promoting 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 obsolescence, created increased demand for specialized systems and components, and disincentivized repair and reuse. Are companies moving fast enough to arrest the amount of physical hardware exhausted and abandoned in the move to a data-centric economy?
Given our dwindling supply of rare earth minerals, emissions from manufacturing and transport, and the staggering amount of electronics either discarded or 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 business opportunities, digital inclusion benefits and sustainable livelihoods that a healthy repair ecosystem creates.
REPAIR will bring together experts, industry practitioners, activists and emerging researchers to discuss the ecological impact of current technology consumption, and the planetary problem of electronics repair. This event gets to the heart of the repair debate, asking: Can repairable electronics really solve the problem of product obsolescence? And what does electronics repair look like at scale?
This event will be held in-person at The Ship Inn, South Bank Campus, Griffith University.
Dr Melissa Gregg
Melissa Gregg is a consultant on sustainable and responsible technology design and an International Advisory Board Member for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making & Society (ADM+S). For the past decade, she led User Experience Research in the Client Computing Group at Intel, driving a range of product initiatives including the research that launched Intel EVO laptops. As Senior Principal Engineer in the Software and Advanced Technology Group, she established the first product team focused on carbon reduction and green software to achieve corporate-wide Net Zero commitments.
Prof Leanne Wiseman
Leanne Wiseman is an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow and Professor of Law at Griffith University, Brisbane Australia and Chair of the Australian Repair Network. Leanne’s current research expertise focuses on the intersection between law and new technologies, with particular attention to balancing IP rights with genuine access to information. She is currently researching legal and regulatory responses to the International Right to Repair movement.
Prof Josh Lepawsky
Josh Lepawsky is Professor of Geography at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Questions informing his research include where and how are contemporary discards made? Where do they travel and where do their effects accumulate? Who gets what discards, where, how, and under what conditions? He is also interested in how maintenance and repair, broadly conceived, might offer both literal and figurative lessons for figuring out how to live well together in permanently polluted and always breaking worlds.
Prof Jack Linchuan Qiu
Dr. Jack Linchuan Qiu is Shaw Foundation Professor in Media Technology at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He has published more than 130 research articles, chapters, and reports, and 10 books in English and Chinese including Goodbye iSlave (University of Illinois P, 2016), World Factory in the Information Age (Guangxi Normal U P, 2013), and Working-Class Network Society (MIT Press, 2009). He is a recipient of the C. Edwin Baker Award for the Advancement of Scholarship on Media, Markets and Democracy, and an elected Fellow of the International Communication Association (ICA).
Prof Steven Jackson
Steven Jackson is Professor in the Department of Information Science and Department of Science and Technology Studies at Cornell University with additional graduate field appointments in Communication and Public Affairs. He is past Chair of Information Science; Dean of William Keeton House, a vibrant living-learning community in Cornell’s West Campus housing system; and since July 2023, Vice-Provost for Academic Innovation at Cornell. He also directs the Computing On Earth Lab, dedicated to investigating the planetary dimensions and consequences of computing, from problems of sourcing and extraction, to energy and water consumption, to technology waste and repair.
Nathan Proctor is the Senior Director for PIRG’s Right to Repair campaigns, which stretch across dozens of states and includes shareholder, Congressional and federal advocacy to protect people’s ability to repair modern electronics. A member of the Grist 50 “list of emerging leaders from across the U.S. who are working on fresh, real-world solutions to our world’s biggest challenges,” Nathan lives in Arlington, Mass. with his wife and two children.
MC Forelle is an assistant professor of Engineering & Society at the University of Virginia’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. They received their PhD in Communication from the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California before becoming a Presidential Postdoctoral Scholar at Cornell University. They are researching the US automotive industry’s shift from hardware manufacturing to software development, particularly as those shifts impact the repair, maintenance, and modification of vehicles.
Michelle Miao Lu
Michelle Miao Lu is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Cultural Studies, Lingnan University. Her research interests include critical media studies, science and technology studies, and Global China studies. Her past and current research investigates China’s digital rise in Africa.
Yifan Wang is a tech journalist, artist and independent researcher working with codes, video games, digital sounds and images. Embracing DIY spirits and wild imaginations, her works seek to interrogate and demystify contemporary forms of power such as digital governmentality and financialized neo-feudalism. Her practice also looks for tangible, concrete, everyday acts of resistance and subversion.
Changwen Chen is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Communications and New Media at the National University of Singapore. He is a critical/cultural scholar interested in the social history of learning and work culture, and its intersections with technology, development, and post-socialist politics.
Assoc Prof Adrian Athique
Adrian Athique is based at the University of Queensland, having previously served as the Chair of Arts at the University of Waikato and the director of the Media, Culture and Society programme at the University of Essex. His research addresses the culture, sociology and economics of the media, especially in Asia. He is author of The Multiplex in India (2009, Routledge, with Douglas Hill), Indian Media (2012, Polity), Digital Media and Society (2013, Polity) and Transnational Audiences (2016, Polity). Adrian has also edited a number of recent volumes on media and digital economies, including The Indian Media Economy (2018, 2 Vols, with Vibodh Parthasarathi and SV Srinivas), Digital Transactions in Asia (2019, with Emma Baulch) and Platform Capitalism in India (2020, with Vibodh Parthasarathi).
Assoc Prof Ramon Lobato
Ramon Lobato is Associate Professor of Media and Communication (ARC Future Fellow) at RMIT University. A media industries researcher, he has a special interest in video distribution, and has written widely on piracy and informal media. Ramon’s books include Shadow Economies of Cinema (British Film Institute, 2012), The Informal Media Economy (Polity, 2015, with Julian Thomas), Netflix Nations (NYU Press, 2019), and the edited collection Streaming Video: Storytelling Across Borders (NYU Press, 2023, with Amanda Lotz).
Nancy Mauro-Flude is a digital caretaker raised in lutruwita/Tasmania. She lectures in computing arts at the Digital Ethnography Research Centre, RMIT University, Melbourne and is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam. Her artistic research is driven by the demystification of technology and the ‘mystification’ that lies in and through the performance of the machinic assemblage. Her works have been commissioned for Ghetto Biennale, Port au Prince; ACCA Melbourne; Artspace, Critical Path; Sydney; Transmediale, Berlin; Dark Mofo, Mona Foma, Tasmanian Museum of Art and Contemporary Art. Recent essays include The Thorny Conversation about Art and Economy (2023) Chicago; Computabilities Dancing (2023) MIT; Towards a Feminist Server Stack (2022); Codesign and Writing the Feminist Internet (2021) Continuum.