Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New York's Do-It-Yourself Social Movement...

It's always hard to recognise when new trends are sprouting up. Lots of times what we think are new trends tend to only be isolated instances that never quite catch on with a larger audience. The question for sociologists is how to tell the difference.

In New York recently, one new trend can definitely be observed... more and more people have adopted a do-it-yourself approach to technology. At the center of this movement is Make Magazine - "The first magazine devoted entirely to DIY technology projects, MAKE Magazine unites, inspires and informs a growing community of resourceful people who undertake amazing projects in their backyards, basements, and garages". It's a popular guide for how to single-handedly create everything from computer hardware to cigar box guitars to electric bicycles, and much, much more.

Of course, there are plenty of niche magazines that cover unusual topics. That alone does not a social movement make.

What's interesting is how it appears there really is a broader movement taking place. The Do-It-Yourselfers come in many forms. The New York Times ran a piece several months ago about "urban farming" taking place in the tiny backyards of Brooklyn. Also, some friends of mine recently constructed a hydroponic vegetable garden in their Upper West Side apartment, complete with a homemade computerized system for regulating water flows.

And, naturally, being in the computer science world, do-it-yourself projects are everywhere. Linux clubs have proliferated for several years and seek to recruit people to take more control over their computer systems so that they're less dependent on the big corporations. Open source projects clearly embody the DIY attitude. And no computer programmer worth their bones hasn't tried to build their own PC from scratch. In fact, it's become a right of passage.

While much of this has always existed, the novelty is in its mass revival. It's become trendy again, especially among non-technophiles.

New York City-based communities have recently arisen around the DIY movement. Blogs like Hack-A-Day continue to grow in audience, and groups like the NYC Resistor Collective actually hold regular meetings "to share knowledge, hack on projects together, and build community".

I'm not sure whether it's ironic or whether it actually makes sense that a back-to-basics mentality is taking root in New York City, the global hub of modernity, of all places.

Regardless, only time will tell if the Do-It-Yourselfers will have the staying power to transform themselves into a true social movement. In the meantime, the crazy array of innovations that they've got brewing are sure to lead to some badly-needed new enterprises in this economy.


At 2:11 PM, Blogger Dr Bernie said...

Terrific. The Brooklyn urban gardening piece
was written by one of
my fellow Staten Island faculty members!


Post a Comment

<< Home