Accepted Paper:

"Can you give its soul back?" Mobile Phone Repair Practices  

Author:

Nicolas Nova (HEAD – Genève)

Paper short abstract:

This paper reports the results of a field study about mobile phone repair practices conducted in three Western countries. It describes the mundane type of maintenance and fixing tactics deployed by users, as well as the operations routinely undertaken by mobile phone repair shops.

Paper long abstract:

This paper reports the results of a field research project about mobile phone repair practices conducted in three Western countries (France, Switzerland, USA). Combining approaches proposed by other researchers, the study included interviews with mobile phone users and owners of repair shops, supplemented by participant observations and "mystery shoppers" visit (i.e. damage a smartphone, ask a shop to repair it and document the way it is done) in the form of visual research. This material helps bringing into light the often ignore and invisible repairing procedures. On the one hand, it describes the mundane type of maintenance/fixing tactics deployed by users and its materiality: the way phone terminals are protected and cleaned, software operations (overclocking, SIM card flashing), the use of additional material (duct-tape, SUGRU paste), etc. On the other hand, it presents the problems brought to mobile phone repair shops, as well as the processes routinely they undertake for their customers. The description of such practices contributes to the field of repair ethnography by discussing the importance of what we called "naive fixing" (i.e. repairing acts users put in place with a limited knowledge of the phone behavior) and the role of on-line material and documents (repair guides issues by professionals or by independent shops). This research also shows that phone manufacturers, users, shop practices should not be opposed and often form a complex and intricate network that merge mundane activities, detailed procedures and expertise.

Panel T007
Before/after/beyond breakdown: exploring regimes of maintenance