Photos by Peter Cox and Kiki Mager
Field Research on Smartphone Repair Shops in Den Haag
Online Research on Alibaba iPhone Components
Field Research around Huaqiangbei
Field Research in Huaqiangbei Dark Market
Audio Recordings around Huaqiangbei
Documentation of iPhone Repair Process
iPhone Repair Shop Films
3D Scans of iPhone Recycling Chain
Informal iPhone Recycling World Maps
Qin 親 [Hello Friend]
Next to Alibaba, the Huaqiangbei Electronics Market (HQB) in Shenzhen is probably the most recognisable symbol of trade in China: known for its size, density, and diversity of products, it is also famous as a laboratory for the innovative prototyping and modification of smartphone technology, due to the high levels of expertise, insider knowledge, and collaboration among its vendors (not to mention their bargain rates). Alibaba and HQB have a complex relationship: while Alibaba’s online platform has reduced footfall in physical marketplaces, especially from foreign customers, HQB is more flexible than Alibaba in relation to international regulations including customs, intellectual property, and trade agreements. Vendors listed on Alibaba with locations at HQB are rarely found there in person, and vice versa.
This project uses the iPhone 7 Plus as a test subject to explore the formal and informal structures and relations of the HQB and Alibaba markets and to map the interaction of consumers, vendors, factory workers, and technology giants like Apple. This phone was also the sole research tool used to document and collect the research. In the process of collecting the components necessary to assemble an iPhone 7 Plus, a new understanding develops around the smartphone: it is no longer a self-enclosed, fixed, branded object of desire but a collection of miscellaneous parts including factory off-cuts, imitations, ad-hoc solutions, aesthetic disguises, and proofs of authenticity.
Translation (Shenzhen): Christopher Hoi Wong
Network (Shenzhen): Li Liao, David Li, Vicky Xie
Repair Shop (HQB, Shenzhen): Mr. Liang, Mr. Li
iPhone Dealer (Shenzhen): Li X.
iPhone Components (HQB, Shenzhen): Lisa, Lily
HQB Alibaba (Shenzhen): Amy, Mily, Jessica, Ally
Guangzhou Alibaba: Richard
Repair Shop (Den Haag, NL): Yasir
Sound Editing (NL): Marylou Petot
3D Technology (US): Marek
Interview Transcript at Lily's iPhone Component Shop Link
Interview Transcript at Lisa's Component Shop Link
Interview Transcript at Mr. Liang's Repair Shop Link
Kiki Mager is a designer and researcher currently at the Centre for Research Architecture in London for their postgraduate degree. Kiki continues their independent and freelance work which evolves around politics of mass-material culture in a critical analysis of their specific roles in shaping social, economic, political and environmental asymmetries.