Fixing the future for smart devices – The Repair Shop 2049 team at Bluedot

Person repairing smart device - close up of soldering

How smart are our smart devices if we cannot repair and reuse them?

This is the question a team from ImaginationLancaster, the design-led research laboratory at Lancaster University, will pose to hundreds of festival-goers as they run The Repair Shop 2049 tent at the popular Bluedot music, science and culture event.

The festival takes place at Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire from July 21 to 23.

By 2030, it is estimated there will be an estimated 25 billion smart devices in everyday use worldwide.

When their hardware breaks or their software cannot support new updates, many will be thrown away and end up electronic waste in landfill contributing to climate change.

“The recent Right-to-Repair legislation is a positive step forward, but it does not go far enough,” explains Dr Michael Stead, a lecturer in Sustainable Design Futures at ImaginationLancaster.

“People still cannot easily, affordably or safely repair their smart devices like phones, speakers and watches. There aren’t the services or skills available to do so within communities. We are investigating how to change that.”

The Repair Shop 2049 is part of a wider Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council-funded project – Fixing the Future: The Right to Repair and Equal-IoT – a collaboration between researchers at Lancaster, Edinburgh, Nottingham and Edinburgh Napier universities.

The team has been working with The Making Rooms, Blackburn’s community fabrication lab, to explore how methods including Speculative Design and Co-design can help improve the repair and reuse of smart tech – particularly through the creation of localised circular economies and repair upskilling.

The Repair Shop 2049 tent at Bluedot will feature fun and interactive activities for all ages including soldering tutorials where visitors can learn how to make their own LED light up Repair Shop 2049 badge.

“It’s crucial to raise people’s awareness of how increasing repair of our everyday devices can help counter unsustainability in our society.” added Dr Stead. “The LED badges are a fantastic way to engage visitors in these discussions and empower them with a new repair skill.”

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