DIYism, the Internet, and Revolutions

It has occurred to me numerous times when I start a do-it-yourself project instead of hiring someone to do it that, really, what I’m choosing is simply a type of control over the situation. And this, of course, being me, makes me wonder why I’m doing it the DIY route rather than hiring someone.


Well, to start with, I do know that some projects are beyond my capability and knowledge, such as doing a major house electrical wiring for an apartment I was finishing up—though I did try but had to hire an electrician since I didn’t research it beforehand (now I can do it, and learned to research stuff first)—or figuring out a defunct air conditioning unit on a boat in the tropics (they couldn’t figure it out either and I wasn’t going to pay for a new system, so I figured out how to position the hatches best for natural airflow).


But these levels of expertise I’ve come to accept, and even though researching will help tremendously on most projects, there are some for which it’s much better—and safer—to hire an expert. Consequently, I have come to the conclusion that most other problems which present themselves in daily living can be solved by DIY through researching first and then following a step-by-step procedure to do it.


Now, the Internet has really been a boon for DIYers. As I grew up, there were many magazines, such as Mechanics Illustrated, available which were focused on this very task for a multitude of topical areas of problem-solving. Some of them are probably still cranking out directions and illustrations for doing just about anything; the same goes for books. I think that the reason for this is that the printed word format still has advantages over digital: the primary one being that of quick access and portability.


On my antique (1994) Toyota Camry that I drive, I recently replaced an outside door handle and an inside driver-side window and door control panel. I ordered the parts online and found a YouTube instruction video on how to replace them. The video was probably better than a printed form, but having to position it on the car seat so I could see it and having to constantly replay pertinent parts were much more difficult than simply opening a relevant book/magazine page and viewing information that didn’t move. Of course, the big advantage of the digital format is being able to find the specific car model and view I needed—which would be harder or impossible with the printed version.


So, there we are. It’s the usual situation of problem-solving having many avenues to consider, evaluate, and make a choice as to what combination will potentially work. But there is another part of why I usually choose the DIY route, besides efficacy and usually being cheaper: my personal history.


Since I was born on a farm and raised through my teen years working on a farm, I was used to my parents doing just about everything themselves, both mom and dad. In fact, farming in the traditional pattern fairly well required a DIY solution because of the relative isolation of the farm and the necessity of immediately solving a multitude of situations all day long. If you didn’t control what was going on, things would get out of hand—and some of them rather quickly, like the cattle finding a downed fence wire and happily munching their way into the neighbor’s hayfield. Usually, there were other farmers relatively close by who could be called on for help or advice, but they were also in the same situation of relying on DIYism and could only do so much. So, a farm was an enclave of DIY activities, surrounded by similar enclaves of DIYism.


That is how it pretty well was universally for farms in the past, and hence my propensity to carry on the self-reliance approach into my life, whether gardening, house, mechanical repair, etc. Of course, with the demands of more complex and interdependent life in recent times, farming has become much less DIY and more specialist, to the extent that a farm is much more a piece of ground over which various people and machines of special services roam to grow a product and get it to market—overseen by a manager of those services who is paid by investors for his/her services. The farm of my past—shared by many of you too, I’m sure—is a rather rare thing anymore.


And so it also is with life in general for everyone else regardless of their particular history. Specialization is a historical trend of humankind, not only in culture (such as the change from hunting and gathering, to agriculture and industrialization, to whatever this digital world is bringing) but also genetic physiology (such as the evolution of bipedalism, grasping hands, and larger and more complex brain neurology). And specialization seems to bring a trend for less opportunity for DIYism in our lives—or does it?


As I’ve suggested, specialization has been with us humans (and other life forms) for a long time, but so has DIYism in sync with human brain complexity and the appearance of culture—which allows for the recording of ideas that can later be referenced. And now the Internet as a super cultural reference tool is perhaps a control format that allows those of us so inclined to expand our individual DIY control much more broadly than we could have had in the past. My little example of car repair barely touches the potential that exists.


Beyond the opportunity for one’s control of communication via social media, the Internet is a vast repository of information that can allow an individual to expand his or her DIY approach to controlling many aspects of personal situations which need to be resolved. A simple Google search on a single topic will reveal a tiny bit of the extent of information that is available and give an overwhelming sense of what all is available—certainly enough to take care of almost any DIY control topic one is broaching.


For myself, aside from the physical hands-on DIY projects I have for daily living, the Internet searching I do a lot of is in the area of health concerns—understandable for my age and the pop-up issues that seemingly arise with a vengeance at times. The big point for me on DIY control here is the ability to calm my concerns about things broken or in peril and if anything needs to be done about them. A good sampling of information from a variety of resources usually sets my mind at ease, to either do something or just add it to the repository known as, “Maybe later, if it comes up again.”


(As a little aside about reality here is that, to be sure, individuals and organizations have come to use the Internet as a tool in their DIY projects for controlling what others think and do, both for nefarious and constructive purposes—a topic not to be addressed here since there are plenty of analyses available regarding that point. But I guess the relevant guiding principle I try to keep in mind is to make sure that such people are not exploiting my DIY control solely for their goals and that I am equally benefiting from the association, or even getting the best out of it.)


And I think this leads to the final part of the title, “Revolutions,” since a revolution can in many useful senses be considered a DIY control effort. This is a huge topic but I’d like to use just two examples as explanations. One is that the Protestant Reformation was basically a social movement by individuals who were dissatisfied with the Roman Catholic Church's control of virtually all aspects of Christian belief and worship. So, they came up with what they considered were changes giving more control to the non-clerical, common man. In other words, it was a DIY project that Martin Luther and others undertook—and fostered a revolution in the Christian religion (while the same thing happened with other religions earlier and since then).


Another example, in the realm of science, is the concept of evolution. Especially as a result of his sailing voyages in the Pacific Ocean where he was faced with many new species of plants and animals and the habitats in which they lived, Charles Darwin eventually came up with his basic theory of evolution which laid the groundwork for explaining through scientific analysis why there is so much variation among all forms of life. He too, and others traveling the same path of investigation (such as Alfred Russel Wallace), carried out a DIY project that delineated the principle and proof needed to provide an acceptable explanation for the world he saw about him—in contrast to the non-testable earlier explanations offered by others—and fostered a revolution in biology and other sciences.


Now, please excuse the simplistic brevity of these two examples; I’m not an expert in either of them. However, I think they fit well with the concept of DIY as a format for control which can be used by all of us, expert and novice, famous and commoner alike, to get the job done that we want done. And that’s what most of our time in daily life is about anyway—getting stuff done.


Besides, I think DIY can just be fun and very satisfying!

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