Repair is not just about fixing things. The act of repair has cultural, social, economical effects and benefits. Repairing is about the constant struggle to make things work, from language, to things, to relations between people, to systems in society. In fact, repairing is a way to go forward; it bridges old and new, past and future, and could therefore be seen as a sensitive way of thinking about future forms of society.

The Repair Manifesto (published in 2009) was a call for action. It advocated for repair as part of daily life, as a sustainable alternative to the throwaway mentality. The Manifesto's catch phrase “Stop Recycling. Start Repairing” was meant to shake things up. Recycling, though widely perceived as a sustainable solution, is still a form of throwing things away—often needlessly.

The Repair Manifesto received international recognition and instigated a shift in mentality away from the new and shiny, towards an appreciation of the imperfect and the improvised. New initiatives like the Repair Café also revealed the communal and social qualities of repair work.

Many people long to be less dependent upon manufacturers’ repair services, pre-scripted functions, and planned obsolescence. More people want to decide for themselves when to engage with or part from their products. With open source technology the idea of repair is a more viable option. Hacking, tinkering, readjusting, reconfiguring, and upcycling endow the act of repair with new kinds of cultural meaning for objects and their makers.

How can we give up the steadfast idea that innovation is connected to “newness”? A moment of brokenness is exactly when one has the opportunity to rearrange things and rephrase their interaction with the world.

Imagine a society built on improvisation, imperfection, resilience, differences, and care. A society based on reflexive action rather than rushing forward.

A Repair Society?