Friday, July 11, 2008

The Re-Emergence of Do-It-Yourself

Clive Thompson says in a recent article called How DIYers Just Might Revive American Innovation (in Wired), "when we stop working with our hands, we cease to understand how the world really works. You see this on a personal level. If you can’t get under the hood of the gadgets you buy, you’re far more liable to believe the marketing hype of the corporations that sell them. When things break, you toss them and buy new ones; you accept your role as a mere consumer."

It's a great point. Most people these days are indeed just consumers. In line with this phenomenon, though, Matt identified a new group of consumers he calls the "builder-consumer" You see them around you. Builder-consumers are those folks who buy parts or mainstream products, then hack them to do what they really want to do. Look at the multitude of home-grown projects, ranging from “modding” your car to display engine stats as you drive, to writing software that’s leaner, more user-friendly and functional for running your iPod than the hulking straitjacket that Apple likes to call “iTunes”.

So why are builder-consumers/DIY making a comeback?
  • Sometimes it’s just cheaper: In an economic slump, it can be cheaper to do things yourself than to go with a pre-packaged solution
  • Customization: In many cases, there’s no product to do exactly what you want to do- DIY enables full customization, meeting the so-called “long-tail” of consumer demand
  • Being handy with stuff: Back in the day, people used to know how to fix things, make tweaks, figure things out, MacGuyver-style

The kicker: Now these folks can find each other- and solutions to their questions- in online communities.

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