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Are we shifting from a DIY to a DIT culture?

April 25, 2010
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Everyone knows the term DIY, Doing-It-Yourself, but have you ever wondered what this term implies today?  The past decades many developments have impacted our society. As a result of these developments I noticed that there had been a noticeable shift from a DIY culture to a DIT- Doing-it-Together culture. The question of this essay is – is this shift taking place and how has this affected the DIY concept? In order to answer this question I chose to make use of both primary and secondary research. The primary research was attained through an interview and a questionnaire.  The secondary researched was obtained on the Internet. The following essay will explain what this interview and questionnaire concluded and what the shift possibly taking place suggests.

DIY

“Do-It-Yourself” or -in its abbreviated form- “DIY”, emerged as a household expression during the 1950’s [1]. It owes its popularity to a movement, which took place in the post-war period after World War II in the United States. The rise of employment[2] gave many Americans their financial security back. For many civilians at that time home-ownership was a common dream. The post-war economic boom turned this dream into reality. “Home” became a  symbol for security and stability[3]. It is perhaps not surprising, that householders enthusiastically took on the responsibility of building, devoting, nurturing and generally “improving” their properties. The combined efforts of manufacturers, DIY shops, magazines and exhibitions initiated and promoted a flow of new products, which were designed to assist the home-improvers. 

However, in recent years, the term DIY has taken on a broader meaning than just a term used to associate with household expressions. DIY describes the action of ‘building, modifying, or repairing something without the aid of experts or professionals[4]’. Today DIY ethics have merged into all sorts and kinds of cultures. One of the first modern subcultures was the punk subculture in the seventies. ‘The DIY ethic is tied to punk ideology and anti-consumerism[5].’  It was at this time in the seventies that DIY intertwined for the first time with fashion.

During the research phase of the specialization Fashion Future I discovered that the past decade the concept of DIY may be shifting to DIT- Doing It Together. DIT offers an alternative for the modern consumer culture and allows individuals to work together to solve each other’s needs instead of individually.

               DIT

A DIT culture is made of a large amount of diversified and talented people working together. Of course whenever a team forms there is a form of DIT.  However, in DIT environments innovations take place quickly as we become eager to drive new levels of performance.

The DIT movement can also be called an open-source movement that is based on social productivity. ‘Social productivity’. is a form of inter-personal exchange founded on the notion of reciprocity’. DIT is formed by social productivity since it motivates individuals to engage in activities, it satisfies the need for self-power and self-esteem. This helps to explain why people want to be involved in open-source and DIT activities which may not offer monetary rewards.

The shift of DIY to DIT was very visible in my research since the DIT culture has been strongly stimulated by the open-source movement on the World Wide Web. Open source websites such as: Wiki, Torrent, and Ebay have generated a vice versa transmission for sharing knowledge, ideas, information, files and selling products.

The open-source movement has created a DIT platform for individuals to represent themselves. A great example is Etsy.com. Etsy is a platform for designers to sell their handmade products. Etsy allows amateurs to take on a role of a professional but also of an entrepreneur which creates a lot of opportunities, also for the fashion industry. DIT can in someway be considered a stimulus of DIY as it are the do-it-yourselfers whom work together and create a community.

The open-source movement is not only taking place online. Also  DIT communities such as FabLab (since 1991[6]) and Techshop (since 2006[7]) are worldwide open-design communities in which sharing knowledge is a shared key value.

Whether this fast growing DIT culture would  influence the initial DIY concept was my main research focus point. It could be that the DIT culture stimulates the DIY culture as I mentioned before. If this is the case, what will be the implications of this DIY stimulus? Will we end up turning to others to find solutions or products instead of ourselves?

       The interview

As I mentioned in the introduction, to attain my primary research I would carry out an interview. I decided it would be very beneficial for this research paper to interview an employee of the ‘Doe het Zelf ’ – Do It Yourself – school in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The coordinator Billa Zussman, was very enthusiastic and helpful in helping me understand what the DIY concept once was and what it has become today.

The privately owned DIY school offers courses such as tiling, plastering and decorating. All of the courses and workshops which are given are related to in-and-around the house chores. According to Zussman the school has been seeing an increase in registrations since the financial crisis has begun. She states ‘We all want to save money. Why would we want to call a plumber when a tab has to be fixed? People are creating a need to gain the basic knowledge in order to fix something in or around the house to save costs. But of course there are also ones here to learn and to relax, from surgeons to lawyers’. Apparently most of the courses are always fully booked throughout the whole year. Each year there are  five series of  courses and two workshops. The school has at the moment an equal male-female ratio but has seen the past years a noticeable growth in women that sign themselves up. The age group ranges from young to old (18 to 70).

Nonetheless, there are many different motivations behind each individual to sign up. As stated above, there are the ones that join to save costs, but others come to learn and relax. Zussman says ‘A few years back a man joined a bricklaying course, for 6 weeks. A few months after he mailed us a picture of the garage he was in the process of building with the knowledge he learnt from us. It was quite impressive’. See picture of the garage on the left. On the website of the school it suggested that they teach you to work ‘independently and professionally’. It raised curiosity within me thus I asked what the school meant with that. She said  ‘The workshops and courses are taught only by professionals. These 3 hour courses are always fully planned since an end product has to be finished within 6 weeks.  Thus no time to chit-chat, only work’. She put a lot of emphases on the ‘work’.

At the end of the interview I asked what the most popular course was. Zussman told me that plastering, electricity, and tiling are the most popular at the moment. She said ‘Those jobs are so expensive to get done, people prefer to pay 150 Euros for 6 courses to learn how to do it themselves.’

The interview with Billa Zussman made me realize that the initial DIY concept is still very much present within the courses of the school.  All courses are related to in-or-around the house chores and many come to become a home-improver. It on the other hand has also created another idea of DIY, the hobby side of it and that many see DIY courses as a relaxation. The interview concluded for me that the DIY movement is a precursor of the DIT culture. A great supporting example of my statement would be Instuctable.com. It is a website on which anyone can share how he or she made, built, or reconstructed something from how to build a tree house to a walkman soap dish.

            The questionnaire

My aim of the questionnaire was to find out what role DIY plays today in the lives of 30 individuals.  The first and only open question I asked was what he or she associates DIY with.  Only 6 persons out of the 30 made the link from DIY to in-or-around the house chores. This suggests that the initial DIY concept has been blurred. 88.9% believed that technology is the reason for this disconnection. A majority of 83.3% suggested that when his or her phone, laptop, or TV breaks they are more likely to buy a new one instead of opening the device up and try to fix it themselves. Could this indicate that technology impacts the DIY culture negatively? According to my results the reason why people don’t initiate to try to fix their digital devices is because they have no idea how to. However, 85.7%  would give it a try to fix a digital device if it would have some type of instruction sticker on the inside advising them on how to possibly fix it. Anyhow, 94.4%  are more motivated to fix a broken door knob or kitchen cabinet instead of something technological since they have some logical idea how to. In conclusion the DIY concept of the household expression is still in existence. It is once DIY is merged with technology the DIY concept seems to have lost its authentic touch due to a lack of knowledge.

            Conclusion

David Prescovitz, co-editor of boingboing.net and Research Director at Institute for the Future stated something very interesting similar to my thoughts on DIY and DIT. He said during a lecture he gave to Berkeley college ‘’You are seeing this movement of DIY people,and you are finding them online, who know how to do things, who have expertise in a particular area, but may not have the letters following their name[8]’. He basically suggests that DIY, open-source, and World Wide Web created the online DIT culture which is emerging online.

I personally agree with Prescovitz , the only shift which is taking place is a movement of  all types of do-it-yourselfers  going online and sharing their knowledge. The initial concept of DIY is still present within our society but is being interpreted totally differently. This may be due to the introduction of many new technologies in which we can’t apply our DIY skills.  However, the DIY has broadened itself. The need to own something unique has risen enormously since mass production has merged into our consumerism. This is especially noticeable in DIY fashion.

In conclusion, there is no shift taking place from DIY to DIT. There is a movement of DIT which stimulates the DIY culture. This movement of DIT impacts the DIY positively as it creates an energy factor for new levels of performance, innovations and expertise.  


 

Literature/ Reference list


[1] http://social-anthropology.suite101.com/article.cfm/doing-it-yourself-in-the-1950s

[2] http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/tassava.WWII

[3] http://social-anthropology.suite101.com/article.cfm/doing-it-yourself-in-the-1950s

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Do_it_yourself

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DIY_ethic

[6] http://www.fablab.com/History/

[7] http://techshop.ws/techshop_in_the_blogs.html

[8] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDHiCOvBMNU

[9] http://www.etsy.com

[10] http://www.instructables.com/

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 26, 2010 4:58 am

    Thank you for your good blog.
    I liked also the Youtube-video. The other links were mostly familiar as our own blog is mostly about DIT. :-)
    http://provillage.com
    We are also interested in DIY, and your Wiki-link to DIY_ethic gave food for thought.

    Henry

  2. Judith permalink*
    April 26, 2010 1:54 pm

    Interesting research!

  3. April 26, 2010 5:23 pm

    There is still some aspects in this DIY – DIT:
    – People wants to learn about permaculture. Permaculture is in reality a serie of ‘How-to’ do this or that, without help from the outside (community). It is not only about how to grow food sustainable, it is also and foremost for many, How-to-do-this-or-that-without-money. Or with very little money. It is about how to make your own energy; wind-mills, solar-systems etc. The most extreem that I have heard about in our climate, is a family of three, whose need of money is about 50 € per year!!

    – Then there is a subgroup, or maybe a “cousin-group” that have the money, but believs that sooner or later money does not count; the Doomers. They believe, or in reality think, as it has nothing to do with religion, that a bigger catastrophe, like Katrina in USA, or even a bigger one; a war or such, puts everyone in a sitution where she has to take care of herself – by herself or in a small group.
    Peak-oil, if nothing very radical solutions has been invented till that day, will certainly give a shock to people – those that are not prepared.
    – Related to these Doomers are those that understands that a person living in the city is quite hand-fallen if she suddenly has to meet nature. [No time for going shopping, buying “Meeting the Nature for Complete Idiots” or such.] And that brings us near the idea of the scout-organisations.
    – An other group, that can feel like far-fetched when we speak about DIY – DIT are the Survivalists. But in reality they are just something between the Scouts and the Military – “Survive in any conditions – with any given tools”. Sounds like McGywer, does it not? ;-)

    Our thinking in our future village is/will be a mix of all this, but my personal slogan is “All knowledge belongs to us!”. With that I mean that the knowledge should be available, free for everyone, we have to teach everyone skills that we know about, as (s)he has that same obligation toward us. personally I teach kids and adults everything from languages to wood-work. Learning DIY and DIT will never be in vain.
    My other slogan is (halfly joking):
    “Sell your TV and you will run the serious risk that you actually learn something!” :-)

    Henry

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