Anthropology and Sociology
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Dr. Smartphone: an Ethnography of Mobile Phone Repair Shops

Nicolas Nova, HEAD Geneva
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Maison de la Paix - Genève, Room S5 Petal 1 (hybrid event)

This event is part of the ANSO Tuesday Seminar Series.

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Dr. Smartphone,” “Docteur IT,” “iklinik,” “iPhone clinique,” “Smartphone clinique…” These are some of the names of a new type of business that has appeared in the past ten years: smartphone repair stores represent the most visible element of this ecosystem, but similar practices can be seen in hackerspaces and repair cafés. The services provided vary, but they tend to focus on the material elements of the handset or terminal. Though the problem or issue is usually with the device’s hardware, repair technicians may also be able to address software issues; overseeing updates, changing settings, installing applications, or adding software and accessories not supported by manufacturers. Drawing on a two-years field study in Switzerland, this talk will focus on the practices of the repairers. How do these individuals come to end up fixing users’ devices? How do they learn to handle products that were not designed to be repaired? And what can the mending of a cracked phone display tell us about technological and social innovation?


About the Speaker

Nicolas Nova is an anthropologist of technology active in the field of interaction design, futures research and digital cultures. His work is focused on observing and documenting digital and new media practices. Nicolas is also an active actor in the establishment of Design Fiction, an approach to anticipate and speculate on the near future use of digital technologies. He is both Professor at the Geneva School of Arts and Design (HEAD – Genève) and co-founder of the Near Future Laboratory, a research agency based in Europe and California. He is also associate researcher at medialab SciencesPo in Paris. Nicolas holds a PhD in Social Sciences (University of Geneva), and another PhD in Human-Computer Interaction from the Swiss Institute of Technology (EPFL, Switzerland). He was previously visiting professor at ENSCI (Paris), Politecnico di Milano, and Art Center College of Design (Pasadena).