Have you ever tried to clean your PC or laptop from dust, or swap out the thermal paste for better performance? Do a DIY repair on your game controller or a smartphone screen? Our right for this kind of tinkering can be history if we do not acknowledge the direction where the technology behemoths are trying to take us.
Right to repair is a movement aiming to disrupt the ongoing centralization of various repair services. A simple procedure of changing a battery or a cracked screen is slowly becoming harder to perform by the user or a smaller repair shop. These procedures are concentrated on authorized repair businesses or the tech giants themselves and the price and availability of repairs are falling into the hands of gigantic technology corporations. These processes are regulated for example by using coded spare parts so in case of an unauthorized repair the company can disable certain properties or functions for using non-authorized spare parts or services. This also includes software, as some modern smartphones will disable functions like cameras if the software bootloader is unlocked. This is a huge loss for the private hobbyists but also for many private repair businesses that do not have the pricey certifications or supply lines of the technology behemoths.
This mainly affects the relation which we have with your devices, as the concept of ownership becomes questionable. Is the device considered yours if you can’t do whatever you want with it? For most people, this becomes a issue with older devices in the cases of accidental damage or the need for after-warranty repair. At that point selecting between certified repair servives for the old device or buying a completely new device becomes relevant, as the official repairs are often quite expensive. This is also where the smaller repair companies thrive, as they can offer competitive pricing for fixing many of the older devices. Ecologically thinking fighting consumerism by fixing the old technology is also a relevant argument as it makes a lot more sense than just throwing old devices away after the screen is cracked or an individual component stops functioning.
The worst part of these policies is that they are not limited to purely consumer technology. As the technology gets more and more complicated even agricultural machinery and car manufacturers are getting into these policies where only the authorized are allowed to perform repairs using only spare parts provided by the mother company. These practices hold a remarkable amount of power globally, and as we are getting more and more tied together with everyday technologies as individuals but also as communities these questions begin to hold notable political influence. We should acknowledge this power and what it means if we lose our rights to our own devices. Thankfully there is a large hobbyist scene that offers guidance for fixing just about anything, and also smaller service providers that offer spare parts and guides for the public.
While the dystopian future is yet to happen, let’s take the time and get familiar with the gadgets we own. Choosing the manufacturers is getting harder and harder due to centralized service models and integrated app purchases, but we can still affect a few things as consumers. Paying attention to recycling old electronics and feeling a sense of accomplishment of using older, but still functioning technology products. Maybe even trying out a simple repair rather than buying a new product? While we are at it let’s give credit to the right to repair movement and spread the knowledge of these global issues.
Pictures: Taken by the author, https://pixabay.com/photos/cracked-screen-phone-broken-display-6137675/
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