Roughly once a month, small groups of volunteers gather at local museums, libraries, and other public venues to help visitors fix their broken stuff. Designated Repair Cafes, Fixit Clinics, or Fixers Collectives, the organizations bring together contemporary environmentalist concerns with time-honored techniques: disassembling toasters that no longer heat, testing Bluetooth devices without signals, and removing dust from unplayable iPods. This essay traces the development of technocratic ideals and gendered identities within two such groups: the Fixit Clinic located in the Northern California East Bay area and the Repair Cafe located in Palo Alto, California, but originally hailing from the Netherlands. It shows how each group, rooted in notions of individualism and reciprocity, comes to articulate particular ways of seeing and remaking themselves as citizens through the disassembly and reassembly of broken consumer products. By examining the development of public sites of facilitated repair during nine months of ethnographic fieldwork, the essay untangles the emerging cultural project of repair in relation to the distinct forms of civic duty it brings to life.
Making Citizens, Reassembling Devices: On Gender and the Development of Contemporary Public Sites of Repair in Northern California
Daniela K. Rosner is an assistant professor in the Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering at the University of Washington, where she teaches design and technology studies. She is the coauthor of “Binding and Aging” (Journal of Material Culture, December 2012) and the author of “The Material Practices of Collaboration,” in Proceedings of the Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (2012).
Daniela K. Rosner; Making Citizens, Reassembling Devices: On Gender and the Development of Contemporary Public Sites of Repair in Northern California. Public Culture 1 January 2014; 26 (1 (72)): 51–77. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-2346250
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