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Dr Lara Houston

Research student

Lara Houston

Thesis Title

Inventive infrastructures - an exploration of mobile phone 'repair' cultures in Kampala, Uganda

Communities of repair in Kampala salvage phones; they bring dead ones back to life and rework recycled ones to operate with unfamiliar networks. How do these communities of repair congeal around the mobile phone? How do they form and develop? How is 'repair' understood and negotiated? The 'moment' of mobile phone repair exposes the multi-layered physical and social relationships that underpin mobile telephony in Kampala. Mobile phone workshops provide a rich and productive terrain for thinking about both the sociality and materiality of human-technology relations. Multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork of markets and small, informal businesses will enable the detailed exploration of socio-technical assemblages of mobile phone 'maintenance' and 'repair'.

Perhaps the Kampalan 'repair cultures' can also suggest some new approaches towards computing and telephony in mature markets globally, particularly with reference to the growing problem of e-waste. The Ugandan proliferation of mobile repair businesses gives an insight into a new paradigm for computing, where hard and software are left more radically open to upgrade, and companies move towards a role of service provision (Graham and Thrift 2007: 19).

Supported by the Microsoft PhD Scholarship Programme

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