To repair electronic devices is largely perceived as an out-dated practice in a consumer-driven society where throwing them away is often an equally viable option. Overconsumption of electronic devices has large-scale negative environmental impacts. The following thesis examines the ways in which ‘Restart Parties’, or community repair of electronic devices, is becoming popular in the megalopolis London. These are three-hour pop-up events where participants arrive with broken electronics devices to get help repairing them together with skilled volunteers, called ‘Restarters’. The thesis illuminates how this form of community repair contributes to the transition to a circular economy within its ecological, social and economic dimensions.
The thesis is methodically and theoretically anchored in social anthropology, but is interdisciplinary in the sense that it draws from sociology, economics and innovation theory. While repair is a much neglected area of research in social sciences, this thesis uses social practice theory to examine the social practice of community repair; who repairs as well as why and how repairing in these communities occur, and what meanings participants attach to the practice. Through the lens of innovation theory it discusses to what extent a largely restorative practice can be innovative? The thesis argues that while we may not see innovation in the Schumpeterian term of ‘Creative destruction’ (1942), what we see is in fact innovation in restorative practices, and to a degree social innovation as the Restart parties establish a vision that people can be part of the solution creating a more sustainable future in sharing, caring and co-operative communities. To what extent the Restart Parties will contribute to the UK economy is more uncertain. The thesis hopes to contribute to the formation of a sustainable future by demonstrating how innovation in practices and cultural narratives can re-establish old, but more ecologically sound practices and principles.