November 11, 2005 18:45 | Culture / Social / Technology

Human hands

In the process of clearing up a misunderstanding, Ethan points to a great article by one Justin Mason about cellphone repair stalls in the streets of India. Amongst other things, it speaks to how most people in a consumerist culture regard the articles they consume as "black box" products (buy, seek help to repair and/or discard; "black box" refers to anything which you know more or less how to use and what it's function is but have absolutely no idea how it does what it does, nor how to fix it if it stops doing what it does. For most of us, our cellphone is a "black box".)

More specifically, it points out how consumers of black box products somehow assume that if they don't know how a thing works, surely no one but the manufacturer could possibly know. This is of course total crap.

Let me put it this way:

What human hands can build, human hands can take apart.
What a human mind can conceive, another human's mind can deduce.
Who does which is a question depending on distribution of value (time, money, sentimental attachment, depth of consumerist streak, etc) and occurrence of need.

Even if I knew how to resole my shoes and could afford the time to do so, I probably wouldn't. If I had a cobbler down the street who could do it for n% less than the cost of a brand new pair, I'd consider it...

See what i am getting at?