Amateur design: DIY as resistance

ATKINSON, Paul (2017). Amateur design: DIY as resistance. In: Design History Society Annual Conference, University of Oslo, Norway, 6-9 September 2017. (Unpublished)

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For some, the act of DIY design embodies an element of resistance: a rejection of mainstream manufacture that emphasises unsustainable perfection in favour of a more personal, individual and ‘authentic’ experience of objects imbued with emotion and personal investment as a more intrinsic part of the constructed self. These notions of resistance are most noticeable when the objects produced are closely tied to subcultural groups and associated with differing levels of alternative ways of life. Musicians and motorcyclists might not seem to be closely connected groups, for example, but through interviews with and observation, remarkably similar ideals and attitudes are revealed. Many musicians reject the perfection of factory-produced instruments as lacking personal meaning, and struggle to justify their expense when the well-known artists many emulate often only had basic, cheap instruments to hand. Others, driven by environmental concerns, worry about the endangered hardwoods associated with high-end instruments, and choose instead to make and perform with cigar box or tin guitars made from repurposed materials. Many bikers display similar disregard for mainstream consumption, but this too takes a number of forms. There is a world of difference between the costly crafting of a custom chopper built mainly for display and a home-built ‘rat bike’ built to a budget. While both machines require a certain level of technical mastery of the owner, one is a piece of conspicuous display driven by desire, where the other is often driven by financial necessity. So, despite the apparent disparities between these objects, there are underlying social and attitudinal elements tying them together—notably a rejection of the passive consumption of mass-production, and a desire for a more meaningful relationship with objects that foster individuality over conformity. In a world where the sustainable future of mainstream manufacturing is being closely questioned, these examples may provide insights into potential ways forward.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Cultural Communication and Computing Research Institute > Art and Design Research Centre
Departments - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Faculty of Science, Technology and Arts > Department of Art and Design
Depositing User: Paul Atkinson
Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2018 12:02
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 06:18

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