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Restart Radio Top 10 from 2017

We’re in for a chilly winter here in the UK, but being stuck indoors is alright when you’ve got a few good radio shows to keep you company. Or if you’ve got relatives to escape and want to get out – take us for a walk! All episodes are available to download from iTunes or your preferred podcast app. Just search ‘Restart Radio’.

We’ve had a fascinating year exploring a whole bunch of new topics, and we want to make sure you didn’t miss our best shows: so here it is, our hand-picked top 10. Over five hours of discussion about gadgets’ past, present and future, the surreal and the everyday, the handmade, repaired and unrepairable – and the role they play in our lives.

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10. Glitch Art by refurbisher RDKL Inc.

John Bumstead of RDKL is a living example of ways in which repair can be a highly imaginative act. After seeing dozens and dozens of Apple laptops come in to his workshop with strange and wonderful visuals, John started to photograph the faults and upload them online. Now, alongside his refurbishing business, he works as a freelance glitch artist.

9. Digital archaeology with Jim Boulton

After a visit to the 64Bits exhibition in Stratford, we talk to the curator – self-described ‘digital archaeologist’ Jim Boulton – about his project to chronicle the history of the World Wide Web. As well as having great nostalgic appeal, this fascinating collection tells us a lot about our experience of the web today.

8. Voice-controlled assistants

Personal assistants grow ‘smarter’ as they collect information about their users – but it’s actually the companies that own the platforms that have the most to learn. While we may feel like we are in a position of control when we give commands such as ‘Alexa, add mince pies to my shopping list’, are we in fact relinquishing control with every tidbit of data on our interests, habits and personal lives that is sent up into the cloud?

7. Community repair, neurodiversity and mental health

Community repair events can be a great way of involving people who might otherwise feel isolated, but this takes some thought on the part of the organisers. Restarters Panda Méry and Dave Lukes share their thoughts with us about how spaces and events can be organised to cater to neurodivergent people and those suffering mental health problems.

6. Tim Hunkin

Tim Hunkin is the beloved host of the TV show ‘the Secret Life of Machines’ the mad inventor behind Southwold Pier and Novelty Automation arcade. His universe is one of whirring gears, flashing lights and strange characters: but underneath the fun and frivolity is an in-depth examination of the history of society’s relationship with technology.

5. Maker culture in Shenzhen and sustainable design

Shenzhen, China is home to over 4,000 product design firms and has been labelled the ‘city of design’. But does this create opportunities for more sustainable, open and modular gadgets, or it perpetuates a culture of cheap and disposable production? David Li, founder of Shenzhen Open Innovation Lab, provokes us to rethink and update our notions of manufacture in China.

4. The parallel worlds of the tinkerer and the grower

Most people think of electronics and gardening as two very distinct hobbies, belonging to two very different worlds. But there are some striking similarities. Joined by Lou and Ed from Friche – an art and design studio working towards eco-structures for urban spaces – we discuss how we can learn to re-think the arbitrary distinction we draw between ‘natural’ and ‘man-made’ environments, and understand them as inextricably connected.

3. The language of our gadgets

Our devices talk to us all the time. It is easy to forget that these blips, bleeps and bloops are not merely generated by the things themselves: they are designed by people. Joined by Dougie Brown from Cassini Sound, we take a peek into the world of sound design.

2. Gendered Gadgets

Through discussions with designer Alexandra Deschamps-Sosino and members of our volunteer community, we explore ways in which the qualities in our gadgets that are aimed at a particular gender. Whether it’s as obvious as a pink diamante-studded telephone, or as subtle as a smartphone screen that is slightly too large to fit in the average female hand, these biases are all around us.

1. Goodbye iSlave Pt 1/2.

What do you know about the circumstances surrounding the production of your smartphone? For the majority of us, the answer is sadly ‘not much’ or ‘I’d rather not know’. In this special 2-part episode, Jack Qiu – author of the book ‘Goodbye iSlave: A Manifesto for Digital Abolition’ – talks us through a story that has been largely neglected by the tech media.

[Image by Flickr user Chris Heidenreich].

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