An interesting story by Clive Thompson at Wired today, where he laments the general decline of the home handyman, and people’s lack of ability to fix things, leading to a more wantonly consumer culture, while also highlighting the return of that culture through Make Magazine and other high tech returns to old school tinkering.
I think he makes some good points about DIY culture, and I think the stuff in Make is always interesting, but he also does miss a couple of points, which some of the comments fill him in on. He talks about people no longer repairing home gadgets, just throwing them away and buying new ones, but of course the point there is the increasing complexity of modern gadgets.
Old school home appliances and even cars were largely mechanical, while even the simplest gadgets today will likely be full of silicon and circuit boards. Unless you’re extremely advanced, you can’t do anything with those, no matter your knowledge. And they’ve become easier to replace than to try and fix.
That said, his better point is about the DIY culture — making things yourself. It is a very satisfying thing in the modern world to make your own stuff, whether through woodworking, metalwork, or any kind of hybrid in-between. I am trying to do as much woodworking as I can, and to mix that with some electronics, which I haven’t done as much of, but would like to.
It’s a very satisfying hobby, one of that is so different to everything else I do (in short, sitting in front of a computer for one reason or another). You’re thinking, and innovating, and working very hard with your hands in a way different to most jobs today.
In some ways the deliberate and heavy splitting of manual creativity from cerebral creativity can mean most people miss out on this sort of thing, but at the same time, more and more people are doing this out of either pleasure, or even necessity. DIY home building and renovating is of course increasingly popular, and the rise of home hardware mega-stores like Bunnings (or Home Depot in the US, as the article says), have helped contribute to this. Some people will do this because it is cheaper than traditional home building, even though it’s harder work, others will do it on whatever scale just because it’s different, fun and challenging.
For me, I just enjoy the effort, the design and creative skills, and the ultimate results. The big one for me is electric guitar building, which I’m still working up to, but will get there very, very soon.