June 19, 2013

CLIVE THOMPSON: We Need a Fixer (Not Just a Maker) Movement.

Madison Sheffield cracks open a toaster oven, jams her hand inside, then turns on the power. It looks like she’s about to electrocute herself, but she seems unfazed. “Thermostat or heating element?” Sheffield mutters, yanking on wires and poking around with a multimeter.

“Why isn’t this working?” She isn’t the only one in this crowded room trying to get busted hardware working. A few feet away, a trio of people are elbow-deep in a vintage VCR, and there’s another team performing surgery on a lava lamp. It’s a typical meeting of the Fixer’s Collective, an ad hoc group of tinkerers in Brooklyn. Once a month, in an art gallery, they offer to repair anything neighbors can carry. People troop in with PCs, lamps, appliances — piles of stuff we typically pitch in the garbage at the first hint of trouble. As I watch for three hours, the fixers get everything up and running (except the lava lamp).

The spectacle of dead goods coming back to life isn’t just useful — for the locals, it’s transformative. “I was a totally different person after they fixed my laptop,” says Nicole DeLuca, a filmmaker who had her MacBook repaired last year. “It made me realize I didn’t need to buy new every time something breaks.”

Interesting.

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