The Future of Fixing

Upon my second reading of this piece, (shout-out to DIG 401), one passage I didn’t pay much attention to the first time stuck out to me. On page 229, Jackson speculates, “Can breakdown, maintenance, and repair confer special epistemic advantage in our thinking about technology? Can the fixer know and see different things—indeed, different worlds—than the better-known figures of “designer” or user?” 

We’ve discussed before how so many products nowadays are ‘designed for obsolescence’, and how difficult it is to get things like computers and phones repaired. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I repaired anything, other than the shoe I repaired for the project assigned in our seminar. At least based on what my grandparents and older family members have told me throughout the years, it seems like previous generations were much more tapped into the kind of “broken-world thinking” Jackson talks about. In poor rural communities like where my grandparents grew up, if something you needed broke, you had to either repair it, or figure out a way to replace it with whatever objects you had lying around. Generally speaking, we don’t do that anymore, and the people who do have the special knowledge required to repair digital items like iPhones now carry a sort of social and economic capital, making ‘fixing’ a valuable skill.

These thoughts lead me to wonder – as older generations and their skills die out, will there be a revivalist ‘Fixer Movement’ to replace the current Maker Movement? Or perhaps as the world acknowledges all the e-waste it’s producing, will giants like Apple democratize the repair of its products?

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