Do It Yourself

"The DIY ethic requires that the adherent seeks out the knowledge required to complete a given task."
        The DIY ethic refers to the ethic of self-sufficiency through completing tasks without the aid of a paid expert. Literally meaning "do it yourself," the DIY ethic promotes the idea that anyone is capable of performing a variety of tasks rather than relying on paid specialists. The DIY ethic requires that the adherent seeks out the knowledge required to complete a given task. The term can refer to a variety of disciplines, including home improvement, first aid or creative works.
      Rather than belittling or showing disdain for those who engage in manual labor or skilled crafts, DIY champions the average individual seeking such knowledge and expertise. Central to the ethic is the empowerment of individuals and communities, encouraging the employment of alternative approaches when faced with bureaucratic or societal obstacles to achieving their objectives.
      DIY culture in the United States can be linked to many of the same philosophies of the Arts and Crafts movement of the 1900s, which sought to reconnect people with hands-on activities and the aesthetics associated with them. This was in direct opposition to the prevailing industrialization and modernization which was moving many aspects of the culture's aesthetics away from the hand-made artisan-created styles of the past and toward a mass-produced sleek modern vision of the future. DIY culture in the US arguably evolved from a simple cost-saving activity of the 1940s and 1950s to an increasingly radical political activity which stood against the increasingly visible trends of mass-production, conspicuous consumerism, waste, and the industrial corporate philosophy of planned obsolescence. DIY culture in the US is a current and evolving loose coalition of various individuals. There are many members of DIY culture with distinct and activist philosophies and goals, such as Betsy Greer who coined the term Craftivism in 2003. There are also many people with a staunch neutrality of political and social issues adopted by other members of the DIY movement. The largest group fall into an area somewhere between these two opposites, as varied in the spectrum of political and social philosophy as members of any large and thriving subculture.
      In John Isaacson's book Do-It-Yourself Screenprinting, published by Portland, Oregon's Microcosm Publishing, who gained fame by publishing and distributing a wide variety of zines, Jason Munn is quoted in a "screenprinter profile" as relating to the medium as follows: "I loved the idea of designing or illustrating something and doing the printing myself. Most of my time is spent in front of the computer so the printing is a great way to get my hands dirty again, so to speak."
      In modern society, it is uncommon for people to go more than a part of a day without interacting with computers or other modern technology. This leads to disconnect between the person and the physical world world around them - including other people - and is a secondary significant motivating force in leading people to embrace DIY culture.
      Carla Sinclair, Editor in Chief of Craft attempts to describe the DIY community: "This DIY renaissance embraces crafts while pushing them beyond traditional boundaries, either through technology, irony, irreverence, and creative recycling, or by using innovating materials and processes...the new craft movement encourages people to make things themselves rather than buy what thousands of others already own. It provides new venues for crafters to show and sell their wares, and it offers original, unusual, alternative, and better-made goods to consumers who choose not to fall in step with mainstream commerce." Ellen Lupton embellishes these thoughts in her book D.I.Y. Design It Yourself: "Around the world, people are making things themselves in order to save money, to customize goods to suit their exact needs and interests, and to feel less dependent on the corporations that manufacture and distribute most of the products and media we consume. On top of these practical and political motivations is the pleasure that comes from developing an idea, making it physically real, and sharing it with other people." The articulation of both Isaacson and Lupton is that DIY activities and culture not only are unique in a modern world of consumerism, they give pleasure to its members simply due to the lack of corporate control or thoughts of profit and marketability which are often assigned to the act of creation outside the world of fine art.
      These views are not universal or without variation, however. In Tsia Carson's introduction to her book 'Craftivity: 40 Projects for the DIY Lifestyle,' she muses that "the kind of agency one gains over their life by making their things is certainly powerful, heady stuff. But I can't honestly say that is why I make things. Do I make things for spiritual reasons? I wonder if I'm ready to speak of crafting as a form of meditation when I compare the crochet hats I make for my daughter's stuffed monkey to venerable practices like making Tibetan sand mandalas. We make things for two reasons: pleasure and because we can." While some ascribe political or social context to their DIY activities, others ascribe personal or spiritual dimensions.
      Matt Maranian, author of 'Pad: The Guide to Ultra-Living,' a guide to making your own home decor specifically intended not to look like it was purchased in any store, illustrates another aspect of DIY culture: "Pad is not a book for the helpless, the aimless, or the clueless, Pad is a book for the empowered, the inspired, and the creative. It's a book for people who forge their own trail, and who know how to make the very most of what they have at hand — or can find cheaply. Pad is the guerrilla approach to home decorating." Matt articulates the sense of community and subculture present in DIY culture, perhaps even hinting at a kind of intellectual succession from a society deemed "helpless...aimless...clueless."
      The first lines of Amy Spencer's 'DIY: The Rise of Lo-Fi Culture' sum up the juxtaposition of DIY culture's aspects by pointing out "the DIY movement is about using anything you can get your hands on to shape your own cultural entity: your own version of whatever you think is missing in mainstream culture. You can produce your own zine, record an album, publish your own book — the enduring appeal of this movement is that anyone can be an artist or creator. The point is to get involved." Read more...

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