Material Literacy and Fix-it Clinics

By Max Liboiron

A number of volunteer Fixit Groups have evolved in the past few years to bring people material know-how and empathy to their ill and ailing possessions. The volunteers are eloquent and articulate when it comes not only to instructing you on how to fix your broken object, but in terms of the relationships people have with their objects, how those relationships change when they are about to discard something, and how it changes again when they learn to fix or re-purpose the object.

Creation of a hand-cranked paper shredder in a Fixers Collective workshop.

There is a Fixers Collective group in New York City, and the SF group has a Clinic at MIT on Jan 28th. Details of the MIT event below.

From the NYC Fixers Collective:

Fixers’ Collective NYC is a group of folks dedicated to working together to fix things – encouraging improvisational fixing and mending and fighting planned obsolescence. Our goal is to increase material literacy in our community by fostering an ethic of creative caring toward the objects in our lives.

The Fixers’ Collective seeks to displace cultural patterns that alienate us from our things, by collectively learning the skills and patience necessary to care for them. Intentionally aligning itself with forces generated in reaction to the current economic crisis, the Fixers’ Collective promotes a counter-ethos that values functionality, simplicity, and ingenuity and that respects age, persistence and adequacy.

The Collective also encourages participants to take liberties with designated forms and purposes, resulting in mended objects that may exist both as art and within a more limited, utilitarian context.

You can check for upcoming Fixers Collective workshops on their website or join the Fixers Collective on FB.

Fixit Clinic in San Fransisco:

Fixit Clinic XVIII @ MIT

Speaker: Peter Mui ’83
Time: 12:00p–4:00p
Location: 4-409,

Fix your broken stuff — Or at least learn more about it by disassembling it.

Bring your broken, non-functioning things: electronics, appliances, computers, toys, etc. for assessment, disassembly, and possible repair.
We’ll provide workspace, specialty tools, and guidance to help you disassemble and troubleshoot your item.
Whether we fix it or not, you’ll learn more about how it was manufactured and how it worked.

This is a family-friendly event: children are heartily invited!

1) your broken or non-working thing (carry-in only: no oversize items)
2) any tools you already own that might be helpful (e.g. phillips head screwdriver)
3) a digital camera to document the disassembly and what we find inside
4) boxes, bags and/or small containers to organize (and carry away) parts.

To make friends, learn how things work, and have fun!

“Like” Fixit Clinic on Facebook.
Join the Fixit Clinic Group Page.

Want to help as a fixer / troubleshooter guide at this event?
Other questions? Email Peter Mui,
Web site:

NYC Fixers Collective participants collectively remove a HEPA filter. Image copyright Fixers Collective.

2 thoughts on “Material Literacy and Fix-it Clinics

  1. Pingback: Nicht wegwerfen – reparieren!

  2. Pingback: This Friday in NYC: Fixer’s Collective « Discard Studies

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