Anaïs Boch & Nicolas Nova – Dr. Smartphones: an ethnography of mobile phone repair shops


IDPURE éditions, ISBN-13: ISBN: 978-2970099260, English, 442 pages, 2020, Switzerland

Much like in the past with mass media (radio and television), we have very little idea of the real world behind the media devices we depend on. This book is a little gem that reconciles that kind of ignorance with a cross-section of socio-technical supporting infrastructure. The examples discussed are local but have a global resonance. Dr Smartphones is the result of a two-year ethnographic research project in Geneva, Lausanne and Zurich (“Mobile Repair Cultures”) that explored the microcosm of smartphone repair shops and their invisible networks, strategies and technical economies, alongside their political and infrastructural implications. This is the underworld of the shiny and aseptic Apple stores, where the ideological mission to re-appropriate this technology unfolds. The struggle against device obsolescence and the acknowledged “unsustainability of these devices” is collectively elaborated through a “sociology of repair”, where do-it-yourself practices articulate their own territory in opposition to passive consumer culture. The research also included maker and hacker spaces and presents a series of iconic portraits through the interview format. What emerges is a combination of a supportive vocation, political attitudes and technical skills within a diversified society prompting an renegotiation of ethical values.