Open Repair Alliance

Reflections on Fix Fest [Part 1]

A few of the OSCEdays community attended Fix Fest a few weeks ago. This was billed as the first festival of repair hosted by the Restart Project, which brought together a community of activists that have been working on repair globally. High profile activists such as Kyle Wiens founder of iFixit, (who we have worked with in the past) Martine Potsma the founder of the Repair Café community, and many members of the global activist repair community attended.

Woon gave a lightning talk on the activities of OSCEdays and Sharon co-ran a workshop in collaboration with Marie Lefebvre (PhD student researching repair and design practices and member of Leicester Fixers). The topic of the workshop was “Who Repairs? Broadening participation in repair practices through design.” The workshop focused on identifying demographics that the community would like/needs to engage with more. The workshop focused broadly on these issues and in a second part to this blog we will elaborate on how the principles and concepts of open hardware can support some of the outcomes of the day.

Highlights of the festival include learning about mobile phone repairers in Ghana from Maja van der Velden (and hearing about the developments made in the intervening time between when Kyle Wiens had visited some years previous), hearing Alison Powell talk about the ethics and issues around data, privacy, and openness, meeting and chatting to a diverse community of friendly “restarters”. Alison has also written a reflection on the event from an information politics and IoT perspective here. The work being done as part of the Virt-EU project on this topic is also extremely important.

One of the more technical workshop Woon attended was run by Toshi1. The sessions discussed issues around mobile devices. They mentioned using SSD as a means of replacement of Hard Disk to extend the lifespan of devices. There were discussions about how the discontinued support of operating systems of mobile phones and planned obsolescence in software, combined with the way new phones are marketed, is a big part of the issue around “e-waste”. Toshi also mentioned how he has resurrected old devices using LineageOS1

The repair community loves manifestos and these could be exchanged as part of the Friday night ‘market place’. On Saturday, the purpose of manifestos was raised by Laura Houston (a PhD researcher at Goldsmiths University London) who sees their role in symbolising and communicating “a more careful material engagement with the World”. Various communities related their stories about how their manifestos were developed. Kyle reflected that iFixit’s was written, alone, in his room (before Platform 21), but wasn’t published until some time later…more on that discussion here.

For us, our manifesto was created collaboratively online by a community of people from all over the World. It was initiated by Lars and elaborated on by many other members of our global, distributed community including: Ricardo, Anastasia, Qing, Sharon, Erica, Sam, Paul, Nataly….. In a relatively short time, it was translated into French, German, Georgian, Chinese, Italian, Russian, Catalan and more. For us, this process of development communicates the potential of the collaborative method of open source. We think this is important to understand, because more openness can support more repair. You can read the whole development of that process here as well as download and hack the manifesto for your own needs.

OSCE manifesto

However, this leads us to some interesting and important debates about repair and openness raised in the panel session with Kyle Wiens and Alison Powell that is relevant to OSCE. For instance, there is an ongoing and interesting debate on the relationship between ownership of stuff and new (circular) business models such as product-service systems that are important for the circular economy. Debates about how the large tech companies should/could be working with the repair community and the security community are critical, as well as issues around the push for the rights to repair and the rights to audit the software/hardware. Some of these issues relating to ethics, data and the Internet of Things, are being considered by the IoT Mark project. This project has so far led to the development of a list of 30 principles for an Open IoT Certification Mark that sets out ethical guidance according to: privacy; interoperability; openness; data governance; permissions and entitlement; transparency and security; and finally lifecycle, provenance, transparency and sustainability.

The festival closed with the fantastic announcement that four leading repair activist communities will form a new Open Repair Alliance. This reflects what is so strong about the work of the repair community: it combines community mobilisation with policy intervention to create systemic change.

Open Repair Alliance

In the coming months, we’ll be developing work on how open source hardware can support repair. Watch this space.

Here is a link to the FixFest Unconference Programme:
https://fixfest.therestartproject.org/unconference-programme/
links to Etherpad Notes for the workshops, including some of the slides used are accompanied in the programme.

That’s all for now,

Woon and Sharon