A bi-weekly talk show by The Restart Project, plus a monthly documentary series produced by brilliant podcaster Dave Pickering, based on fixing triumphs, heartbreaks and wisdom shared at our community repair events – called Restart Parties – here in London.
We go into real depth about good and bad design, obstacles to repair of electronics, emotional aspects of ownership, environmentally irresponsible business models, and the “end of life” of our gadgets.
This podcast is for you if you'd like to fix your relationship with electronics. Let’s rethink, restart.
Restart Podcast Ep. 61: Introducing the French Repairability Index
We discuss opportunities and limits of the new French Repairability together with experts involved in its development
Restart Radio: How manufacturers game the system through voluntary agreements
On February’s episode, we discuss game consoles, printers, and the virtually useless voluntary agreements for their manufacturers.
Restart Podcast Ep. 60: Electronics Watch is protecting occupational health
Labour rights abuses did not start with Covid. Omana George from Electronics Watch tells us how she has been working to protect occupational health.
Restart Radio: What is true digital inclusion?
It may be a new year but we are still pressing for change in all the same places. On January’s episode, we revisit the topic of “digital inclusion” as schools are once again forced to close. Janet and Ugo are joined by Ben Skidmore, as they discuss why digital inclusion is more than just getting laptops into the hands of those in need. Later in the show, we also examine some potentially good news and forward movement in European Union policy.
The important details of digital inclusion
In the UK, we are not far off from a year since the first nationwide lockdown due to the pandemic. Despite this, there are still over a million children without access to the internet at home, for school. While there has been some progress since we last discussed this in September, it is nowhere near enough to solve the massive need. Is it better to rely on large-scale procurement of laptops or rather to focus on local community organising and grassroots efforts to reuse old laptops? Ultimately, we need both.
Ben points out that fixing laptops — especially a variety of used models given by individual donors — does take markedly more time than large-scale procurement or refurbishment. In September, we talked to James Diamond from Hackney Fixers about their laptop repair and reuse project. He told us that while their work takes much time and care, it is urgently needed to ensure equal access to what is now an essential resource.
And this time and care is needed not just in relation to hardware. Even for those who are equipped with devices for online learning, we have not seen enough guidance for teachers and students on how to use these devices in an effective way. Digital inclusion is much more than access to hardware. It also includes access to the internet and equipping people with the tools to use resources critically. We quote Brazilian academic André Lemos’ 2003 essay
Can we really measure social inclusion by the number of computers per capita, by the number of internet users and other like statistics? Again, including means here adapting, moulding and forming individuals able to use software and operating systems that can be out of date in only a few months…
Perhaps the true social inclusion is through educating on the new media, not just the techniques, but through the development of a critical thought and disquiet in relation to that which they sell us as the newest, best thing, that will just rot in front of us…
Promising developments in Europe
While we are no longer part of the EU, we don’t yet know how this will affect policy here in the UK. So, we look hopefully towards some recent policy developments from Europe. The European Commission recently released documents as part of a preparatory study that looks at ecodesign for smartphones and tablets. We discuss the prospects for game-changing regulation of smartphones this year.
A recent study by Öko-Institut and VZBV, that looked at increasing the lifespans of products has yielded similar conclusions. Looking at laptops, smartphones, notebooks and washing machines, they modelled the results of extending these product lifetimes to seven years. The findings are clear: making products more repairable would have a drastic impact on reducing CO2 emissions and saving money for the consumer alike. Now we want to see this evidence used to instigate real policy changes.
Finally, a celebration and examination of actual policy change. On January 1st, France introduced its new repairability index. The regulation will require ratings on products including washing machines, televisions, smartphones and laptops. And it includes many pillars of Right to Repair in its criteria. We worry that the French government’s reliance on manufacturers to rate their own products may lead to misuse. However, Ben points out that ultimately this policy will at least start consumer
Restart Podcast Ep. 59: Lasers lighting up the sky, with Seb Lee-Delisle
For our last episode of the year, we so happy to bring you this interview with laser interactive artist, presenter and Repair Café volunteer Seb Lee-Delisle. Restart first met him at Hackaday’s Unconference in London a couple of years back. (In recent years, we’d noticed he became a regular at his local Repair café.)
But during the past decade, Lee-Delisle’s probably most known for some of his interactive light installations, and work for performers such as Fat Boy Slim.
Dave talks with him about lasers over the decades, how they started cool, got a bit naff and became cool again. And then of course about this strange year, and how like many artists, Lee-Delisle faced a wave of cancellations. During the first lockdown, instead of clapping for the National Health Service, he began projecting his thanks on tall buildings in his hometown of Brighton.
This led to a much more ambitious (and interactive) idea, appropriate to the socially distant scenario, “Laser Light City”. Why not allow viewers to control high-powered lasers beaming into the urban night sky? He dazzled and thrilled people with this installation in Brighton, Leeds, then Worthing and soon to be arriving in Newcastle.
The nerd niche
Lasers are beams that can be controlled using timing and mirrors, and this is where the art lies. Lee-Delisle writes most of his own code for his projects, and is a big believer in open source. He talks about the benefits of offering up his “ofxLaser” code library even when he felt it wasn’t ready.
Confessing to be addicted to repairing stuff, Lee-Delisle is a strong believer in the power of nerd communities, and the potential of entertainment for and by nerds. YouTube and maker/repair communities are flourishing and a constant source of inspiration. And of course, the nerd (live) comedy scene has really opened up whole kind of entertainment that he didn’t have growing up. (We nod our heads when he expresses his frustration with the hit BBC show The Repair Shop — it does not share enough detail about the fixes!)
To close, Lee-Delisle recognises he’s had a very good year, during difficult times for others. But we’re really glad that he’s sharing some of his light with the world. (And literally letting us play with lasers!)
* Seb Lee-Delisle’s personal website and his YouTube channel
* Laser Light City
* Newcastle Laser Light City, for the New Year
* ofxLaser code library
* Laser Duckhunt
[Feature photo credit to Antony Ribot]
Restart Radio: Lamps at the end of the tunnel — a new lighting refurbishment business
It’s our final radio show of a year full of bad news, and we have some good news to share. To kick us off, Janet and Ugo speak to Jonathan Samuels, a lighting designer who has worked in live entertainment for decades. After theatres and live performances were shut down this year, Samuels adapted and launched a new business in lighting refurbishment and repurposing objects into lamps.
Refurbish, lights, action!
For Samuels, working in live events meant a very uncertain and frustrating year. At Restart, much of our work revolves around in-person events so our community can sympathise immensely. With his usual work impossible, he decided to venture into refurbishing and reuse and started an online business selling his creations. His experience in theatre — making practicals for the stage and dismantling lighting equipment — provided him with many skills in lighting refurbishment. However, Samuels explains that he still had a lot to learn when starting his business.
While Samuels has developed a strong appreciation and interest in lighting through his career, another driving force behind his business is his commitment to reuse. Scrolling through his selection of lamps, one will find antique Anglepoise and other renowned names. But what is also striking are the upcycled pieces, lights made from everything from bygone Burgoyne bottles to Bunsen burners and more. He doesn’t just extend the lifespan of lamps but also gives a new life to objects that are otherwise unusable.
Progress on policy
News from the UK and the EU allowed us to wrap up 2020 with a celebration. First, we discuss the UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee report, containing many of the recommendations we gave in our evidence to its enquiry. It calls on the government to enshrine the Right to Repair in law. This includes affordable spare parts, access to software tools used for repair and commitments to software support. This is a big moment.
The news out of Brussels also marks a move forward in the fight against unrepairable, throw-away products. A recent European Parliament vote means that the European Commission now has the go-ahead to push on. Next year we hope to see laws aimed at extending the lifetime of products such as smartphones and laptops.
Our final story is a reminder of why this legislation is so necessary. We share reports that the new macOS update has been slowing and even bricking ‘older’ machines. ‘Old’ however only means around six years old, which is unacceptable. While the problem appears to be fixed now, many users faced a huge shock. It’s another reminder for those using older hardware to hold off on updates in the future until they’ve been tested by others first.
SamLights on Etsy
SamLights on Instagram
Our analysis of the UK Parliamentary committee report
More on the European Parliament vote
The Verge: macOS Big Sur update causing some older MacBook Pros to get stuck on black screens
Photo credit: Jonathan Samuels
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A missing voice in the world
I am so glad there is a team of people working on these issues and even bringing abolitionism into the spectrum of issues that face the mass consumption of gadgetry. Smart and brave hosts. Thank you!