iFixit is a wiki-based online community where anyone can post an instruction how to fix something. It is a knowledge base on fix and repair created by people. As of December 2016, there are 23,024 manuals for 6,997 devices, mainly electronic gadgets and appliances.
There is something monumental about iFixit, and it’s similar to the excitement Makers movement brought to people.
Modern technology has been making every product and service better and cheaper. Easier, faster, smarter, more functional, sturdier, bigger or smaller …you name it. While there is no doubt that it has been great accomplishments, this acceleration process deprived of the work of designing things from all of us, and gave it to only a handful of smart and talented experts. Just a hundred years ago, people would build their own house, sew their clothes and make simple but elaborate devices for their work. But those knowledge was easily lost and replaced by much more sophisticated R&D process achieved by bright engineers, inventors and designers.
Completely left behind, majority of us found ourselves labeled as a “consumer.” So we started focusing on “consuming” products and services to find satisfaction, joy and happiness. But consuming is inherently passive and alienating. You just sit and wait for pleasure to be delivered without knowing how it was realized. While it’s easy and addictive, many of us are starting to suffer from the loss of sense of accomplishment. iFixit or Makers tries to reverse the trend, and tries to win back the art and joy of “designing, making and rearing things” to our own hands.
On their website, iFixit co-founder Kyle Wiens passionately claims: “take something apart that doesn’t work, understand the problem so as you can fix it, and then put back together….is the greatest feeling in the world when it turns on and you know that YOU fixed it. It’s so exciting to know that YOU can control of your own hardware.”
When Marie Kondo suggests abandoning clutters in “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, or when Kengo Kuma advocates “Small Architecture,” the bottom line is the same as Kyle Wien’s message: we want to, and we are capable of, control what we have, with our own hands – rather than being overwhelmed by them. We cannot feel mindful satisfaction by just possessing something. We need to understand it and fully embrace it.
It’s becoming very difficult with modern technology. We don’t know how iPhone works. We don’t know what products are made of what materials. We don’t know how each part is connected and how they collectively perform tasks. So iFixit tries to help us, by encouraging to “open” any broken products and see what’s inside. It’s an intimidating process, but eventually you would “reverse engineer” a product, replicating designing/manufacturing process backwards. Once you get the hang of it, you acquired new engineering skills, and as iFixit Manifesto above says, you finally own your product and you can mean it.
iFixit is also a partner of Patagonia who is promoting repairing their clothes. Patagonia employs 45 full-time repair technicians at our service center in Reno, Nevada. According to their “Worn Wear” website, they completes about 40,000 repairs per year. As part of their endeavor to repair/fix more clothes, they teamed up with iFixit to create care and repair guides.
If the ability to design or manufacture something is a skill, then the ability to repair something should also be a skill. The fact that modern economy simply didn’t assign much value on it doesn’t mean it’s valueless. If the practice of repairing can win back the joy of designing and making things to peoples’ hands and stir sense of accomplishment and sense of healthy ownership, there is no reason to continue excluding it from economic equation. iFixit and Patagonia are showing great examples of how to make a room for repairing within the current economy system.