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Your Own Devices

Does your phone really belong to you if you can’t repair it?

Anyone who has cracked a smartphone screen or needed to replace a failing laptop battery knows the frustration that awaits. Devices that are vital to our daily lives are nearly impossible to fix ourselves, and manufacturer repairs are often so expensive that it makes more sense to trash it and buy a new one. Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson joins web editor Violet Lucca to discuss her article in the March 2022 issue on the Right to Repair movement, which seeks to empower users to fix ailing devices rather than consign them to the trash heap. Dickinson and Lucca discuss the scope of the problem, which pertains to everything from smartwatches to dishwashers to tractors, and how corporations have progressed from ceasing to publish technical manuals to using nonstandard parts that render their products impenetrable black boxes. They delve into the environmental impact of these corporate decisions and trace the progress of the Right to Repair movement from small online tinkerer communities to federal legislation and executive orders. All the while, Dickinson and Lucca plumb some of the deepest issues raised by the movement, including the role consumer behavior played in creating the current situation and the very nature of ownership.

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March 2022

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