söndag 27 mars 2022

From (e-)wasteland to Repair Society (paper)


The previous blog post was about a paper of our that has been accepted to the upcoming 8th International Conference on ICT for Sustainability (ICT4S). The conference will (still) be held in Bulgaria between June 13-17 and we (still) plan to go there by train.

Well, it turns out we actually had a second paper accepted to the conference, "From (e-)wasteland to Repair Society: Exploring ICT repair through speculative scenarios". (Our research group in fact had a third paper accepted to the conference but I don't know the title of phd student Yann Seznec's paper, nor am I a co-author so I won't write about that paper in my blog). "From (e-)wasteland to Repair Society" is written by Minna Laurell Thorslund, Sahra Svensson-Hoglund, Daniel Pargman and Elina Eriksson. This is my phd student Minna's first paper as first author!

This paper builds on (step 1) a cooperation between Minna and repair and circular economy and sustainable biomaterial Virginia Tech phd student Sarah Svensson-Höglund. They both took a phd course in September - October last year, "Making sustainable futures - An introduction to futures studies and scenario techniques" (taught by our ex-colleague Josefin Wangel). I think it's fair to say that Sarah took the lead in writing the course paper in the futures studies course since it concerned "her topic" (repair). Minna however also took the phd course that me and Elina were teaching all through the autum, FDM3506 ICT and Sustainability, and for the (step 2) course paper she then reworked and extended her and Sarah's previous work and also made it more about ICT (e.g. reframing their work and and placing it in an ICT context). Step 3 happened when me and Elina stepped in (e.g. after our phd course had finished) and helped develop Minna's course paper into a full conference paper. 

I'd say this paper is very much a service to the community. By analyzing what (little) has been published in the area of repair and outlining issues and questions that we as a community could (should) look into. Why recycle materials when we can intercept the waste stream at an earlier stage and recycle (repair) devices that have a much higher value (than the materials they consist of)?


Circularity in how we handle resources and materials is a key ambition in many sustainability initiatives and policies. Yet, when it comes to the circularity of ICT, much research tends to focus on how raw materials are sourced and later recycled. E-waste has represented the fastest growing waste stream globally for years, and the vast majority is not handled appropriately. In a society where repair is possible, accessible and the normative response to the breakage of devices, this waste stream could be dramatically reduced. In this paper, we describe and discuss the results of a literature review of how repair of ICT has been approached in the proceedings of previous ICT4S conferences (2013–2020). The findings are then analysed in relation to a set of speculative future Repair Society scenarios, which were developed to inform policy recommendations. The paper contributes to the ICT4S community by: 1) identifying aspects of ICT repair that have been studied to date; 2) using the Repair Society scenarios to generate insights and reflect on gaps in the research; and 3) outlining insights and suggestions of areas that could fruitfully be explored by the ICT4S community in future research.


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