DiDIY or DiDIWO?
Digital DIY is characterised as a socio-technological phenomenon, bringing together, for example, ABC technologies and online knowledge to create new outcomes. But how far is it a question of Digital Do-It-Yourself or Digital Do-It-With-Others?
UK Research Fellow for the DiDIY project, Dr. Isabelle Risner, considered the question of collaboration during her PhD research. Her thesis, titled: The Integration of Digital Technologies in Designer-Maker Practice: A Study of Access, Attitudes and Implications (1), looked in detail at how craft practitioners made use of digital technologies such as CNC milling, laser cutting and 3D printing. The conclusions recognise that although many of the participants were working as sole practitioners, they were rarely working on their own.
They required access to large scale digital making equipment, often in a university workshop or makerspace with technician support, and were likely to be working in collaborative partnership with others. Typically makerspaces benefit from the creative collaborations made possible by bringing together makers and technicians from a broad range of experiences and expertise, who can support each other. Technical help can range from the structured support of inductions and specialist classes, to a more informal exchange of knowledge and skills. Furthermore, makers benefit from the embedded knowledge designed into software and hardware. Other important sources of collaborative effort include the use of online digital designs and support networks.
Social interaction in itself is known to be one of the major attractions of makerspaces. Socialising, making and learning were found to be the top three reasons for using makerspaces in the UK, according to recent research from well respected UK innovation research organisation Nesta. The Nesta report noted the rapid growth in popularity of makerspaces commenting ‘the number of UK makerspaces has grown considerably in the last decade. While we found 97 makerspaces across the the country, only nine of these existed in 2010 ’(2)
So, whilst DiDIY remains a useful and well recognized short-hand for this rapidly growing socio-technological phenomenon, due weight needs to be given to understanding the complex web of social, creative and technical interactions, collaborations and support networks that are needed for DiDIYers to Do-It-Themselves.
2. Nesta, (24.4.15) Top findings from the open dataset of UK makerspaces