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DIY Citizenship

DIY Citizenship: Critical Making and Social Media

Matt Ratto
Megan Boler
foreword by Ronald Deibert
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 464
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  • Book Info
    DIY Citizenship
    Book Description:

    Today, DIY -- do-it-yourself -- describes more than self-taught carpentry. Social media enables DIY citizens to organize and protest in new ways (as in Egypt's "Twitter revolution" of 2011) and to repurpose corporate content (or create new user-generated content) in order to offer political counternarratives. This book examines the usefulness and limits of DIY citizenship, exploring the diverse forms of political participation and "critical making" that have emerged in recent years. The authors and artists in this collection describe DIY citizens whose activities range from activist fan blogging and video production to knitting and the creation of community gardens. Contributors examine DIY activism, describing new modes of civic engagement that include Harry Potter fan activism and the activities of the Yes Men. They consider DIY making in learning, culture, hacking, and the arts, including do-it-yourself media production and collaborative documentary making. They discuss DIY and design and how citizens can unlock the black box of technological infrastructures to engage and innovate open and participatory critical making. And they explore DIY and media, describing activists' efforts to remake and reimagine media and the public sphere. As these chapters make clear, DIY is characterized by its emphasis on "doing" and making rather than passive consumption. DIY citizens assume active roles as interventionists, makers, hackers, modders, and tinkerers, in pursuit of new forms of engaged and participatory democracy.ContributorsMike Ananny, Chris Atton, Alexandra Bal, Megan Boler, Catherine Burwell, Red Chidgey, Andrew Clement, Negin Dahya, Suzanne de Castell, Carl DiSalvo, Kevin Driscoll, Christina Dunbar-Hester, Joseph Ferenbok, Stephanie Fisher, Miki Foster, Stephen Gilbert, Henry Jenkins, Jennifer Jenson, Yasmin B. Kafai, Ann Light, Steve Mann, Joel McKim, Brenda McPhail, Owen McSwiney, Joshua McVeigh-Schultz, Graham Meikle, Emily Rose Michaud, Kate Milberry, Michael Murphy, Jason Nolan, Kate Orton-Johnson, Kylie A. Peppler, David J. Phillips, Karen Pollock, Matt Ratto, Ian Reilly, Rosa Reitsamer, Mandy Rose, Daniela K. Rosner, Yukari Seko, Karen Louise Smith, Lana Swartz, Alex Tichine, Jennette Weber, Elke Zobl

    eISBN: 978-0-262-32121-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Ron Deibert

    Throughout history, the invention of new information and communication technologies has brought with it inflated hopes for liberation and democracy, only to have those hopes punctured by the inevitable crush of state and corporate power. Is the Internet an exception?

    This question has animated new media scholars and activists alike ever since the first email lists and bulletin boards were used to organize and disseminate information at the dawn of the Internet age. There can be no doubt that the Internet and its related tools, like social networking and mobile computing, have placed powerful capabilities in the hands of individuals...

  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)
    Matt Ratto and Megan Boler

    DIY—do-it-yourself—no longer just describes the weekend warrior struggling to install their own bathroom tiles or build their own deck. Instead, DIY increasingly constitutes our lived, daily experiences, in particular those that involve media and communication systems. And increasingly, the DIY ethos has seismically reshaped the international political sphere, as can be seen in ongoing global uprisings and the uses of media and communications within a “logic of connective action” (Bennett and Segerberg 2012), a kind of “collective” or “networked” individualism (Rainie and Wellman 2012) constituting new hybrid social movements and practices of horizontal, participatory, and direct democracy (Boler...

  5. I DIY and Activism:: New Modes of Civic Engagement and Participatory Politics

    • [I Introduction]
      (pp. 23-28)

      DIY ethos and culture provide a compelling and coherent framework for understanding contemporary forms of activism and collective identities. The chapters in this section illuminate new hybrid forms and modalities of activism and digitally mediated networks where real/virtual, direct/mediated experiences are no longer distinguishable; online and offline activities meld and morph within our distributed networks afforded by mobile devices, social media, and information and communications technologies (ICTs). Due to the blurring of social and political practices and identities within our hybridized everyday lives, hybridity is redefining traditional understandings of the “political” and “politics” and enabling new modes of civic engagement...

    • 1 Maktivism: Authentic Making for Technology in the Service of Humanity
      (pp. 29-52)
      Steve Mann

      Maktivists are social makers—people who make things for social change. Maktivism brings together the technology and media-technology activists as discussed by Milberry (chapter 2, this volume) and Dunbar-Hester (chapter 4, this volume); content-activists, as discussed by Jenkins (chapter 3, this volume), Chidgey (chapter 6, this volume), and Burwell and Boler (chapter 7, this volume); policy-activists, as discussed by McPhail et al. (chapter 5, this volume); and artists as discussed by Reilly (chapter 8, this volume); As such, Maktivism is not just making things that change/preserve/save the world/planet. A Maktivist is a maker who is authentic—not a poseur (Bricmont...

    • 2 (Re)making the Internet: Free Software and the Social Factory Hack
      (pp. 53-64)
      Kate Milberry

      With the emergence of global justice movement(s) in the mid-1990s, tech activists began remaking the Internet in the image of the just society they pursue. Using free and open source software (FOSS), tech activists continue to build the digital infrastructure of the “newest social movements,” developingtechnologies of resistanceto support activists online. The newest social movements are contemporary, broadly anti-capitalist social movements that organize loosely around anarchist politics, informed by emancipatory theory (Day 2005). By designing values into technology that are consonant with movement goals, tech activists engage in prefigurative politics. This self-reflexivity invokes the spirit of critical making...

    • 3 Fan Activism as Participatory Politics: The Case of the Harry Potter Alliance
      (pp. 65-74)
      Henry Jenkins

      In a white paper released by the MacArthur Youth and Participatory Politics research network, Cathy J. Cohen and Joseph Kahne define participatory politics as “interactive, peer-based acts through which individuals and groups seek to exert both voice and influence on issues of public concern” (Cohen and Kahne 2012, vi). Participatory politics offers a more welcoming space for diverse kinds of participants than traditional politics, enables greater creativity and voice in expressing one’s views, and provides a gateway to more traditional political activities, such as voting or petitioning. Citing data from a survey of more than 4,000 respondents ages 15–25, they...

    • 4 Radical Inclusion? Locating Accountability in Technical DIY
      (pp. 75-88)
      Christina Dunbar-Hester

      This chapter examines DIY (do-it-yourself) politics in the realm of practice. To do this, it follows the work of a group of media activists whose work foregrounded engagement with communication technologies. Working in a self-consciously collaborative mode, the activists promoted hands-on work with radio and Internet hardware as a means to enact DIY politics. This practice was understood to be in service of a broader goal of facilitating technical and political engagement through “demystification” of technology.

      Specifically, the media activists sought to cultivate a particular mode of “maker” identity. They presented technical engagement as a strategy for leveling expertise and...

    • 5 Proportionate ID Cards: Prototyping for Privacy and Accountability
      (pp. 89-100)
      Brenda McPhail, Andrew Clement, Karen Louise Smith, Jennette Weber, Joseph Ferenbok and Alex Tichine

      “ID please!”

      This apparently straightforward request is an increasingly taken for granted aspect of everyday transactions in informationally mediated societies. A citizen or customer typically responds by unquestioningly providing a plastic photo ID card for inspection. Without the “right” card, a transaction can stop in its tracks. In these transactions, the ID cards we routinely present define who we are and what we can do. In aggregate, these cards enable and delimit how we participate in society—in short, they shape our citizenship.

      We often think of citizenship in terms of rights and responsibilities accorded to us by virtue of...

    • 6 Developing Communities of Resistance? Maker Pedagogies, Do-It-Yourself Feminism, and DIY Citizenship
      (pp. 101-114)
      Red Chidgey

      Zines are noncommercial, amateur texts that have been picked up by various social movements as the perfect channels for communication and creativity.¹ Produced on the fringes of academia, journalism, and established art scenes, these often-photocopied publications offer a variety of voices and perspectives not usually found in the mainstream media (see figure 6.1). As art educators Kristin Congdon and Doug Blandy describe them, zines are “chaotic, disturbing, uncomfortable, sensual, complex, loud, confrontive, humorous, and often a pointed and acerbic critique of mainstream culture and contemporary life.”² They are an intriguing form of DIY media, predominately made and read by young...

    • 7 Rethinking Media Activism through Fan Blogging: How Stewart and Colbert Fans Make a Difference
      (pp. 115-126)
      Catherine Burwell and Megan Boler

      In this chapter we recount what happened when a project intended to analyze online political activism took an unexpected turn into DIY fan culture. Although we at first resisted this shift, we soon realized that an examination of digital public spheres could not overlook fans’ processes of creation and community building. In fact, we found that fan practices troubled—and in doing so deepened—our conceptualizations of political engagement. As theorists intent on rethinking notions of citizenship in the context of emerging social media practices, we found that fanlike feelings and values (including interest, affinity, and sociability) intersected with and...

    • 8 Just Say Yes: DIY-ing the Yes Men
      (pp. 127-136)
      Ian Reilly

      Google “DIY” in an images search and you will call up an eclectic library of arts and crafts, masonry, technology, architecture, transport, fashion, design, and food. You’ll see images of reconstituted cardboard boxes, transistor radios, throwaway jeans, abandoned parking lots, obsolescent computers, and broken chairs. Encountering these images under the banner of online “do-it-yourself” culture creates a welcome impressionistic view that materials and objects of little to no commercial value can be repurposed and reinscribed to breathe new life into things that may otherwise be relegated to the trash bin of history. This broader practice of cultural recycling and regeneration...

  6. II DIY and Making:: Learning, Culture, Hacking, and Arts

    • [II Introduction]
      (pp. 137-140)

      The role of DIY in learning and artistic contexts cannot be understated. DIY practices have long been part of how various groups of people perform their connections to cultural groups and communities. Such work is seen as increasingly important in today’s mediated, complex, and fluctuating social contexts, which requires citizens to engage more fully in processes of self-determination. As stated in the introduction to this volume, Hartley’s notion of “DIY citizenship” emphasizes individual engagement with the processes of personal and cultural construction. Some of the chapters in this section extend Hartley’s ideas, digging into the details of how individuals and...

    • 9 DIY Citizenship, Critical Making, and Community
      (pp. 141-156)
      Kate Orton-Johnson

      New practices of making have shifted definitions of craft from a peripheral form of domestic production, personal enjoyment, and creative fulfillment to acts variously defined as “craftivism.” Combining craft and activism, craftvism encompasses acts of radical feminism, gender subversion, political activism, and environmental advocacy as well as drawing on narratives of creativity, community, and citizenship (Minahan and Wolfram Cox 2007; Pentney 2008; Greer 2008). While craft has a long history of subversion, from political spinning bees in the 1700s to the knitted punk aesthetic of the 1970s (Turney 2009), current articulations of craftivism are focused on the intersections of personal,...

    • 10 Mélange of Making: Bringing Children’s Informal Learning Cultures to the Classroom
      (pp. 157-168)
      Alexandra Bal, Jason Nolan and Yukari Seko

      Thomas Kalil of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, in his opening remark at the 2010 National Science Foundation (NSF) workshop Innovation, Education and the Maker Movement, identified maker culture as the next phase of societal evolution. This evolution is based on individual fabrication becoming part of a powerful maker innovation ecosystem where products and services allow individuals to design, make, and sell it themselves, and where makers are also becoming successful entrepreneurs.¹ His position suggests the Obama administration’s increasing support of hands-on, project-based approaches to learning, the practices crucial to prepare young people to become citizens...

    • 11 Power Struggles: Knowledge Production in a DIY News Club
      (pp. 169-178)
      Jennifer Jenson, Negin Dahya and Stephanie Fisher

      This work builds on community-based extracurricular media production programs that are advocated by researchers and practitioners as educationally beneficial for children and young people, particularly those living in low socioeconomic conditions and facing forms of marginalization within and from outside their communities. Many of these programs have demonstrated how students’ participation in media production can support specific curricular requirements, as well as contribute to understandings of digital and traditional literacies, critical analysis of popular media, and analyses of issues such as race, identity, gender, and power dynamics.¹ Scholars and researchers interested in exploring the relationship between visual media and multimodal...

    • 12 Transparency Reconsidered: Creative, Critical, and Connected Making with E-textiles
      (pp. 179-188)
      Yasmin B. Kafai and Kylie A. Peppler

      In this chapter, we consider how students’ and adults’ work with electronic textiles can expand our understanding of “transparency”—revealing power structures and constraints in the design and use of new media—a core idea promoted in participatory media¹ and critical design.² Electronic textiles (e-textiles), which include young people’s design of programmable garments, accessories, and costumes, incorporate elements of embedded computing that allow for controlling the behavior of fabric artifacts, novel materials that can include conductive fibers or Velcro, sensors for light and sound, and actuators such as LEDs and speakers, in addition to traditional aspects of textile crafts. E-textiles...

    • 13 Woven Futures: Inscribed Material Ecologies of Critical Making
      (pp. 189-200)
      Daniela K. Rosner and Miki Foster

      Over the last few decades, a broad range of new materials and tools has entered after-school programs. Rooms have been outfitted with computer labs, computers have been connected to the Internet, and special programs have expanded to include robotics and computing workshops. Yet the nature of these transitions and their consequences for pedagogy is often difficult to distill, presenting some challenges for our theorizing of digital practice. In this chapter, we aim to better understand these shifts and their implications for critical making by discussing our experiences at an after-school club in Silicon Valley for predominantly African American and Latino...

    • 14 Making Publics: Documentary as Do-It-with-Others Citizenship
      (pp. 201-212)
      Mandy Rose

      Documentary has its own DIY history. The story might be said to begin in Great Britain in 1935. That year Ruby Grierson, whose brother John had coined the term “documentary” a decade earlier, was working as an assistant on the film that becameHousing Problems(1935), about living conditions in London’s East End. In a legendary incident, related by Grierson in his memoirs, she invoked a do-it-yourself ethos, inviting the slum dwellers to tell their stories directly to camera. Metaphorically handing over the recording equipment, she urged them to take the opportunity to state their case: “The camera is yours....

    • 15 Mirror Images: Avatar Aesthetics and Self-Representation in Digital Games
      (pp. 213-222)
      Suzanne de Castell

      This chapter presents a conceptual sweep of the terrain across which a hybrid species, somewhat flesh and blood, somewhat digital, is being forged. These are spaces never discovered, because they have always and only been invented, and in these spaces, inhabitants are forged, in the dual sense of being both made and made up by human subjects who paradoxically enough discoverthemselveseven as they make themselves—though the cloth with which they dress their first person singular¹ is mostly not of their own weaving, or even their own cut. To adapt from Marx, “Gamers make their own avatars, but...

  7. III DIY and Design:: Opening the Black Box and Repurposing Technologies

    • [III Introduction]
      (pp. 223-226)

      Latour famously described the need to unpack and open up the “black boxes” of technological systems (Latour 1987, 2). Borrowing the term from cybernetics, Latour used it to highlight the need to examine the practices whereby technologies and “facts” are naturalized. The chapters in part III work to unpack and reveal the often hidden work of technological naturalization, highlighting the various agencies and structures that are maintained as well as troubled by DIY experiences—or those that are claimed as “DIY.” Generally, concepts of design and participatory activities are addressed and examples given that demonstrate how design practices can serve...

    • 16 Textual Doppelgangers: Critical Issues in the Study of Technology
      (pp. 227-236)
      Matt Ratto

      At a conference a group builds electronics flowers, using them to explore dimensions of sharing and network technologies (Ratto and Hoekema 2009); in a city, urban agriculturalists use simple robots to explore smallscale farming and automation (DiSalvo 2012); in their workplace, designers construct an IV bag in the shape of a teddy bear and rely on the cognitive dissonance to convey affectual sensibilities about health and childhood (Dunne and Raby 2001); in a design firm, a group of designers and sales people build wearable sensors to test theories of cognitive plasticity and embodiment (Ratto 2010); at the university, a class...

    • 17 The Growbot Garden Project as DIY Speculation through Design
      (pp. 237-248)
      Carl Disalvo

      Speculative design offers the viewer compelling and provocative images for consideration, such as graphic visions of the cities-of-tomorrow or conceptual products that meld science fiction and industrial design. This kind of work has a long history in architecture, design, and art, extending back to the early twentieth-century futurists and constructivists, through to contemporary examples in the domains of critical design (Dunne and Raby 2001) and design fiction (Bleeker 2009). What is common across most forms of speculative design is that it does two things simultaneously: it instantiates a radical imagination of the future or an alternate present through design, and...

    • 18 Doing It in the Cloud: Google, Apple, and the Shaping of DIY Culture
      (pp. 249-258)
      Michael Murphy, David J. Phillips and Karen Pollock

      This chapter focuses on the technical and industrial organization of cloud computing, and the implications that this organization might have for DIY culture. It articulates a tension that is present throughout the collection of works featured in this section. Each of these chapters documents how a DIY ethos is cultivated across different fields (engineering, architecture, publishing, diamond appraisal). They also attend to how even DIY discourse is shaped by a combination of social, cultural, technical, and institutional forces. Joel McKim (chapter 21, this volume), for instance, looks at how the “undemocratic” field of architecture is sustained by various forces—money,...

    • 19 Citizen Innovation: ActiveEnergy and the Quest for Sustainable Design
      (pp. 259-268)
      Ann Light

      ActiveEnergy is a hybrid; it represents several incarnations of a community project that is seeking social change through the high-profile design of eco-technologies by ordinary citizens with a range of engineering skills. It began as a research project, which, far from ending when the funding ran out, instead gained new adherents and new pots of money. Beyond the constant involvement of the Geezers, a group of elderly East End Londoners setting the direction of travel, and artist Loraine Leeson, providing creative leadership and facilitation, it has included work with an art gallery, a couple of charities, a secondary school, a...

    • 20 Le Champ des Possibles—The Field of Possibilities
      (pp. 269-282)
      Owen McSwiney and Emily Rose Michaud

      Les Amis du Champ des Possiblesis a Montreal-based nonprofit group whose ambition is to preserve an urban green space as a community park and urban biodiversity reserve. The three-acre site is located in the Mile End district, which contains the smallest percentage of green space of all Montreal’s Plateau-Mont-Royal districts. The city purchased the site from Canadian Pacific Railway in June 2009. The Mile End is undergoing substantial gentrification, and due to the site’s proximity to the district’s cultural and economic hub, it has been earmarked for development. Negotiations are currently ongoing¹ between Canadian Pacific Railway and Montreal city...

    • 21 Distributed Design: Media Technologies and the Architecture of Participation
      (pp. 283-294)
      Joel McKim

      Despite the architectural origins of the term DIY—a shorthand description for “do-it-yourself” made popular during the home improvement craze of the 1950s—there are few fields as distant from the participatory ethos of a contemporary DIY movement. Expanded public involvement is seldom the focus of a domain shaped in large part by the decidedly undemocratic forces of expert knowledge, large-scale capital investment, and unilateral decision making. This hierarchical situation is, of course, not a new one for architecture; writing in the 1960s, the Dutch architect Aldo van Eyck deplored his profession’s historical allegiance with “kings, popes and tyrants.”¹ And,...

    • 22 “I hate your politics but I love your diamonds”: Citizenship and the Off-Topic Message Board Subforum
      (pp. 295-306)
      Lana Swartz and Kevin Driscoll

      Discussion of solitaire ring design and heated political debate might seem like an unlikely juxtaposition, but for a time both could be found on the jewelry-lovers’ message board PriceScope. It would not have been uncommon for two posters to argue about tax policy or abortion in one subforum while collaborating to help a third user find the perfect setting for a repoussé engagement ring setting or pink diamond accent stone in another.

      On PriceScope, this culture of collaboration produces the capacity for a politics of self-determination that John Hartley describes as “DIY citizenship.”¹ This in turn created the basis for...

  8. IV DIY and Media:: Redistributing Authority and Sources in News Media

    • [IV Introduction]
      (pp. 307-312)

      How are social media practices reshaping landscapes of news media, public spheres, and definitions of journalism, “fairness,” accuracy, and authority? Which voices/channels carry authority in the twenty-first century?There are 5.3 billion mobile subscribers(77 percent of the world’s population). More than 250 million people access Facebook through their mobile devices. Facebook’s 750 million users would constitute the world’s third largest country. YouTube has 490 million unique users each month. Wikipedia authors total over 91,000 contributors, and Wikipedia hosts 17 million articles. And 50 percent of the world’s population is under age thirty. How are the rapidly changing practices being...

    • 23 Redesigning the Vox Pop: Civic Rituals as Sites of Critical Reimagining
      (pp. 313-328)
      Joshua McVeigh-Schultz

      The notion of DIY citizenship was originally framed by John Hartley as a way of accounting for the shifting cultural logic of television toward an emphasis on difference, choice, and self-determination.¹ At the same time, this framework of DIY citizenship also emphasized a movement away from values of sameness and identification with others. At the root of this argument is an embrace of a liberatory decoupling of addresser and addressee afforded by television. For Hartley writing in 1999, this decoupling is empowering for the do-it-yourself citizen, now free to appropriate meaning in ways unintended by television producers. But the same...

    • 24 Alternative Media Production, Feminism, and Citizenship Practices
      (pp. 329-342)
      Rosa Reitsamer and Elke Zobl

      Drawing on findings from our Feminist Media Production in Europe research project at the University of Salzburg (Austria), ¹ this chapter demonstrates how transnational feminist alternative media—in particular, print fanzines (for a definition of zines, see Chidgey, chapter 6, this volume), blogs, and electronic fanzines (e-zines)—create spaces of civic engagement beyond consumption, and intervene in hegemonic discourses on neoliberal politics, feminism and migration. As Linda Steiner aptly puts it, alternative feminist media suggest “a model for oppositional media”² as they document women’s attempts to improve themselves and remake the world. Chris Atton champions alternative media in general as...

    • 25 Alternative Media, the Mundane, and “Everyday Citizenship”
      (pp. 343-358)
      Chris Atton

      In his 1934 essay “The Author as Producer,” Walter Benjamin argued that in order for political propaganda to be effective, it was not enough to merely reproduce the radical or revolutionary content of an argument in a publication.¹ The medium itself required transformation: the position of the work in relation to the means of production had to be critically realigned. This requires not only the radicalizing of methods of production but a rethinking of what it means to be a media producer. What we now term “alternative media” can be thought of as being organized along similar lines to Benjamin’s...

    • 26 Critical News Making and the Paradox of “Do-It-Yourself News”
      (pp. 359-372)
      Mike Ananny

      In his foundational study of television watching, Hartley (1999) describes do-it-yourself (DIY) citizenship as “the practice of putting together an identity from the available choices, patterns and opportunities . . . no longer simply a matter of social contract between state and subject, no longer even a matter of acculturation to the heritage of a given community, DIY citizenship is a choice people can make for themselves” (Hartley 1999, 178). Essentially, while earlier conceptualizations of citizenship were wrapped up in geographic or identity-based memberships—living somewhere, inhabiting demographics—Hartley suggests that contemporary citizenship also entails “semiotic self-determination” (179), individually navigating...

    • 27 Social Media, Visibility, and Activism: The Kony 2012 Campaign
      (pp. 373-384)
      Graham Meikle

      On March 5, 2012, the thirty-minute videoKony 2012was uploaded to YouTube. Within its first week online, the film had been viewed 100 million times, the fastest any online video had ever reached that number, and had figured in more than 5 million tweets. A Pew survey in the days after the film’s release found that almost 60 percent of young adults in the United States were aware of the video.¹Kony 2012was an activist campaign film built around the affordances of social media. It was intended to mobilize support and action to stop the activities of Joseph...

    • 28 A Digital Democracy or Twenty-First-Century Tyranny? CNN’s iReport and the Future of Citizenship in Virtual Spaces
      (pp. 385-402)
      Devan Bissonette

      One of the most seductive aspects of the digital age is its potential to create a virtual democratic model of participatory cyber-citizenship. The present reality is far bleaker. Amid the cacophony of virtual discourses, the anonymity of participatory media has become a harbinger of an uncivil society. While much is said about the growing influence of social media over human connectivity, what about its impact on producing and interpreting information, the building blocks of a society’s understanding of itself and the world? As professional reporters’ century-long monopoly over information production declines, the forums where a new breed of citizen journalists...

  9. List of Contributors
    (pp. 403-414)
  10. Index
    (pp. 415-450)