photos from: www.icouldmakethat.org
The magic of the Internet is always surprising. It’s ubiquitous, open, it connects people through immense distances in real time and it’s always expanding with new content, new chances of interaction, new opportunities to learn.
In time, the Internet has become a wondrous entity, instantly solving our doubts and providing us with answers to questions of all sorts – from who won WWII to what’s the name of the blond guy in the Backstreet Boys. All it takes to access any type of information is a Google search.
One of the most interesting evolutions of this superpower of the Internet happened when someone started searching for instructions rather than for notions, and when someone else started satisfying that information demand with step by step tutorials, enabling an always greater number of people to learn how-to-do-things-themselves.
The explosion of DIY websites online is a phenomenon of growing proportions, and it goes far beyond upholstery and repairs. It has become an unstoppable cultural movement, approaching every area of human knowledge.
BreakThru Radio discussed this with Jack Herrick, the founder of wikiHow, a popular DIY website active since 2005 and growing exponentially thanks to the magic spell contained in its name: “wiki”.
“Our goal for wikiHow is to build something that has never existed in the history of the world: instructions for every activity, freely available to every person on earth. We want to be able to teach every single person on earth, anything they want to learn to do,” Jack tells BTR.
Jack gave us an idea of the staggering range of topics wikiHow offers information about to 33 million people every month for free: How To Survive In A Federal Prison, How To Make A 3D Paper Snowflake, How To Be A Slacker Mom, How To Retire In Your 30s. And, we can’t forget the most classical how-to manual subjects, such as How To Hard Boil An Egg.
“I’ve long dreamed of building the universal how-to manual for the web. I think learning is one of the killer app’s of the web. And I see wikiHow as offering a free practical education to the world,” Jack tells BTR.
And, the world is evidently enjoying learning-by-doing.
Countless are the DIY blogs available online, where self taught crafters and artisans are exchanging information, giving each other inspirations for future DIY projects and promoting each others’ creations, sometimes even selling their handmade goods.
BTR asked some of these bloggers to share their opinions on the DIY revolution that is taking place online, and they all agree in attributing the merit of it to the Internet itself.
“When I wanted to learn how to sew, the first place I went was Google,” says Alison Headley, blogger of I Could Make That. “I have three sewing books and two knitting books in my craft room, but more importantly my Firefox bookmarks folder contains hundreds upon hundreds of links to techniques, tutorials and how-tos for just about any project you can think of,” she adds.
For Sara, blogger of CraftSnob, the Internet has been monumental in making it possible for more people to be more creative and learn new things: “It’s like a club that offers a sense of belonging and support that you might not be able to get without it. When others like your site enough to keep coming back, it gives you the confidence to keep creating.”
Kirsten, one of the five Crafting Chicks from Salt Lake City, says that seeing what other people are doing is really inspiring: “I have a SLEW of things I currently want to make because I saw them somewhere, and I love to put my spin on it.”
Alison Steadman, from OopseyDaisy, tells BTR she has been amazed at the blogging craze, and adds an interesting point: “I never would have attempted many DIY ideas if I hadn’t seen average, everyday people demonstrate it and make their ideas seem do-able.”
Aria, who recently opened her tumblr Thread, Paper, Scissors, agrees with Alison: “There are DIY books and magazines out there but some people need videos or more detailed instructions. The cool thing about blogs is that if you are making a project and get stuck, you can usually ask the designer for help.”
BTR asked the bloggers their opinion on why a growing number of people are starting to Do Things Themselves: what happens when they realize it’s possible, fun and sometimes easy?
Sara thinks this epiphany “opens up a whole new world” that “takes away the mentality of everything is made in a factory by a machine”.
Alison H. thinks it has to do with people finally gaining awareness of the importance of living a sustainable life: “The American obsession with fast food, fast fashion and disposable products is waning as our economy weakens and our concerns about the environment grow. While it’s unfortunate that it’s happening for scary reasons, I think it’s excellent that people are starting to pay more attention to what they buy and what they consume,” she tells BTR.
Alison adds that her friends’ and her adult lives remind her more of her grandparents than her parents: “We grow our own vegetables, we make our own clothing, and we do things like save tin cans and spaghetti jars to turn into pencil cups and vases. I love that something as new as the Internet is instrumental is allowing us to do things like our grandparents used to do.”
“DIY shoppers are loyal to buying something they know was made with someone’s two hands,” says Sara, but that isn’t still sufficient to make a living out of DIY creativity, even when you sell your works through your blog or open an online shop on websites such as Etsy.
Alison H. tells BTR she doesn’t know anyone who is able to earn enough by selling DIY products, especially if you are creating something time-consuming that you can’t sell for what your time is really worth. “These days people don’t have as much disposable income to spend on things like a $10 handmade pin cushion”, she tells BTR.
But Alison also knows many artisans who would still sell for fun and for a little extra money on the side – herself included.
“A lot of people prefer to buy handmade items over commercially-made items. It’s more environmentally sound to do so, and buying a handmade item directly from the person who made it eliminates worries about sweatshops and unfair wages. The DIY movement has been growing right along with people’s concerns about the environment and labor practices, and that’s not a coincidence.”
Written By: Francesca Giuliani