DIY Culture

Do It Yourself, or DIY, is a term that is used by various communities of practice that focus on people creating things for themselves without the aid of a paid professional. Many DIY subcultures explicitly critique consumer culture, which emphasizes that the solution to our needs is to purchase things, and instead encourage people to take technologies into their own hands.

Recently, DIY has re-emerged in the hipster "craft movement" (applying postmodern sensibilities to decoupage and sewing projects), the Burning Man event/community ("No spectators"), the techie Open Source movement (free, user-modifiable software), and, of course, wikis.

DIY is associated with the international alternative and punk music scenes. Members of these subcultures strive to blur the lines between the creator and consumer by constructing a social network that ties users and makers close together. The phrase Do It Yourself along with its acronym is also commonly used where a layman endeavors to complete a project without the physical aid of a paid professional.

There are various communities of media-makers that consider themselves DIY, for example the indymedia network, pirate radio stations, and the zine community.

There is also a community of people who use the term DIY to refer to fabricating or repairing things for home needs, on one's own rather than purchasing them or paying for professional repair. In other words, home improvement done by the householder without the aid of paid professionals.

DIY has a lengthy history around the world, since through the ages of camp life, and later village and town life, the most common situation has been for people to use local technologies to take care of their needs for themselves (and, for most of the centuries now past, even to make their own tools, clothing and so on).

Home Improvement DIY in North America[]

Large hardware stores have fueled the DIY ambitions of America

The home improvement DIY scene we know today is actually a re-introduction (often to city and suburb dwellers) of the old pattern of personal involvement in home or apartment upkeep, or the making of clothing, or maintaining of cars, computers, websites, or any material aspect of living. For decades, magazines such as Popular Mechanics, Mechanix Illustrated, and The Family Handyman offered a way to keep current on useful information.

A comment by philosopher Alan Watts (from the "Houseboat Summit" panel discussion in a 1967 edition of the San Francisco Oracle) reflected a growing sentiment of the times: "Our educational system, in its entirety, does nothing to give us any kind of material competence. In other words, we don't learn how to cook, how to make clothes, how to build houses, how to make love, or to do any of the absolutely fundamental things of life. The whole education that we get for our children in school is entirely in terms of abstractions. It trains you to be an insurance salesman or a bureaucrat, or some kind of cerebral character."

In response to this sort of insight, in the 1970s, DIY spread through the North American population of college- and recent-college-graduate age groups. In part, this movement involved simply the renovation of affordable, rundown older homes. But it also related to some extent to various projects expressing the social and environmental vision of the '60s and early '70s.

A young American visionary named Stewart Brand, working with friends and family, and initially using the most basic of typesetting and page-layout tools, created issue number one of The Whole Earth Catalog in late 1968. It was subtitled : Access to Tools.

The first Catalog and its successors used a broad definition of the term "tools." There were informational tools, such as books (often technical in nature), professional journals, courses, classes, and the like. And there were specialized, designed items, such as carpenter's and mason's tools, garden tools, welding equipment, chainsaws, fiberglass materials, etc. - even early personal computers. (The designer J. Baldwin acted as editor for the inclusion of these items, writing many of the reviews himself).

The Catalog's publication both emerged from and spurred the great wave of experimentalism, convention-breaking, and do-it-yourself attitude of the late 1960s. Often copied, the Catalog appealed to a wide cross-section of people in North America and had a broad influence.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the publication of how-to books and widely distributed magazines for the handy amateur increased. When home video (VCRs) came along, the potentials in demonstrating processes audio-visually were immediately grasped by DIY instructors. As with television programs, presentation could be dynamic and was not limited in the ways that still photos and written text might be.

The DIY industry has grown markedly since the 1980s as DIY has become a popular weekend pastime for people wanting to improve their living conditions (and the value of their house) without the expense of paying someone to do it. There are many DIY stores to supply materials and tools.

The term "DIY" itself is generally less commonly-used in North America than it is in the United Kingdom. Speakers of American English usually say or spell out "do-it-yourself" without acronymizing the word.

Common home improvement DIY tasks range from:

  • putting up shelves.
  • fitting wardrobes
  • general repair and maintenance

to more advanced tasks such as:

  • DIY audio/video equipment.
  • Modifying or upgrading computer equipment, known as modding or tweaking.
  • DIY furniture making.
  • adding rooms
  • plumbing
  • rewiring houses - mains power or Cat-5
  • building a car port or a shed
  • building/restoring a car, boat or aircraft
  • repairing the family car (usually limited to changing a starter or alternator)
  • establishing a rural water system
  • Self-publishing books and alternative comics.
  • bands or solo artists releasing their music on self-funded record labels

Although DIY tasks are typically within the range of people who can read and follow instructions, DIY is responsible for an increase in home injuries.

Smallwikipedialogo.png This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Do it yourself. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with DIY Culture, the text of Wikipedia is available under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Some people enjoy DIY better than sex.