take it apart(y)

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  • take it apart(y)

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  • Devices of any age, preferably already broken/non-functional, otherwise ready to be sacrificed
  • Tools for taking apart devices
  • Protective equipment (gloves, safety glasses) if taking apart might get destructive (especially with younger participants)
  • Computer or two with access to internet for looking up schematics & details of parts, or with schematics already loaded if no internet access
  • Bins for Recycle, Reuse, Reassemble


To conduct a Take It Apart(y) you will need devices to take apart, tools for doing the dismantling, and a space to work in. Beyond that, modularity is key, but from my experience there are some suggested practices to follow. If it is possible to have participants work in pairs or small groups, that tends to be the most effective strategy for encouraging conversation and exploration. Making sure that individuals who are less confident get a chance to wield the tools is important.

Having a facilitator who circulates and encourages people who are shy to take a turn with the screwdriver, and urges partiers to figure out what it is they are looking at, is vital. Fielding questions by looking up the answers together is also essential – the best method is to just have a central laptop that can be referenced as needed (Make sure that the laptop is clearly labeled as not to be dismantled, and strongly encourage participants to keep their own electronics hidden away, lest someone get over-zealous and open up something that was not meant to be taken apart).

The facilitator should not readily supply answers, but rather should speculate over them and then take the time to confirm or disaffirm that speculation using available reference materials. If it isn’t possible to do so, then taking notes for future research is important. Compare the insides from one device to another, note similarities, examine differences. Treat the workshop like a dissection. The devices are organisms to be examined, catalogued, and sorted into appropriate taxonomies. Ideally, useful parts are saved or distributed to groups that are willing to repurpose them, and the remainder of the dismantled device is saved for appropriate recycling where possible.

At the same time that the physical work of dismantling is happening, the facilitator should encourage conversation around related topics like the Right to Repair movement, the state of recycling, the Open Hardware movement. Take note of questions and concerns, and engage in the same practice of speculation and research as with the physical components. If there are repair groups in the area, partiers should be made aware of their existence. Information about national and international activist and technology policy groups should also be provided.


The practice of repairing devices is talked about A LOT in DIY communities. However, the process of getting people to the point of feeling comfortable with repairing devices (or even taking them apart) is rarely addressed. With a little patience, people can be taught to repair their devices – and not just the basic repairs, either. But first they need skills-building and confidence building. Years of progressive de-skilling and reliance on experts has left a lot of people deeply uncertain about their own abilities and their rights with regards to their own devices. The ultimate goal of the workshop is to instill curiosity, both about the actual devices but also about the state of the world that has led to our current status quo.