Is there such a thing as a person who is naturally inclined to tinkering? I think so. Over the years I always have a certain kind of student who really likes to tear things apart. They are often interested in cars, skateboards, bikes, and electronics. They come to my room before or after school to borrow tools to fix stuff. They tell me stories about the things they are tearing apart at home and experimenting with.
The irony is that when I analyze myself I would not categorize myself as a natural tinkerer. I have a sense of pride about fixing my washing machine, but I did not enjoy the process. It was painful, frustrating, and there were a few fits of anger. I hate working on cars or other types of equipment. Maybe that is why I notice this “talent” in others because it does not seem natural to me.
Contrary to Sherry Turkle’s assertion (as reported by Silvia Martinez) that tinkering is a female approach to technology as opposed to male problem-solving strategy, I have found that most of my “natural” tinkerers are boys. But maybe I am defining tinkering too narrowly and not considering how girls might choose different avenues to express their tinkering.
At some levels though all humans are natural tinkerers. We all like to feel, smell, and handle objects that are new to us. All you have to do is be a parent of a young child to experience how humans love to discover and tinker with everything (especially dangerous stuff like electrical cords).
So maybe the real issue is about what kinds of things we consider to be tinkering? While I hate fixing things, I enjoy building things and experimenting with concrete.