Human World

Mark Frauenfelder of Boing Boing and MAKE on doing it yourself

Mark Frauenfelder: Once you start realizing that the world is a hackable platform, you see all sorts of possibilities.

Mark Frauenfelder is editor-in-chief of MAKE magazine and co-founder of Boing Boing, a popular blog with roots in futurism and the technology of cyberspace. His new book is Made by Hand: Finding Meaning in a Throwaway World – released in May 2010.

It chronicles a year he spent on DIY, or do-it-yourself, projects – like raising chickens and keeping bees. EarthSky asked Frauenfelder about the connection between the Internet and making things by hand.

Mark Frauenfelder: It’s kind of a natural development. Maybe Boing Boing in the early days focused on Internet technology because it was really cool, but now the content on those devices is allowing people to do things they weren’t able to do before.

In other words, Frauenfelder said, the Internet has become a huge resource not just for technology, but for things you can create in the real world.

Mark Frauenfelder: Now we’re at the point where you can go online and find out about anything that you’re interested in. So if you want to do some geeked-out gardening techniques that maximize the number of calories per square foot of garden, you can go online and find people who can help you with that.

Frauenfelder believes that as life in America becomes increasingly wired, the availability of information provides a way for people to take active control of their physical environments.

Mark Frauendfelder: So do-it-yourself is about taking those things we’ve kind of outsourced… and taking those things back and incorporating them into our lives so we’re actually active creators and participants rather than always being consumers.

Frauenfelder said that in the past, people were expected to repair their own machines and technology. But today, much of the technology we use comes with the expectation that it cannot be repaired by its user.

Mark Frauenfelder: Today’s things are glued shut. Think of the iPhone and the iPad. There’s no obvious way to open those things. When they break, you’re expected to throw them away and get a new another one because they are inexpensive. But you’re throwing away your ownership of that thing.

Frauenfelder said that aspect of ownership, and control of the physical objects he exists with, is important to him.

Mark Frauenfelder: If you take the time to repair something, it becomes part of you, and you have connection to the human-made environment around you. Having a say in that – and having it reflect your personality and your desire to make things the way you want them to be – is a powerful way to exist. In my book, I talk about taking back some of that control by even doing a little bit of that. You can take back control of the way you eat, for example, by growing your own food, keeping bees, and raising chickens. You get a little bit of that control back, and it can improve the quality of your life quite a bit.

He added that making things by hand will likely make you more observant of the world around you.

Mark Frauenfelder: Say you make a piece of furniture. You become much more observant of the way other furniture is made – how the wood is fastened, the kind of joints that are used. It makes you more observant and appreciative of the world around you when you become an active creator, rather than a passive consumer.

June 7, 2010
Human World

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