The Joy of DIY in a Digital World
Once you start realizing the world is a hackable platform, you see all sorts of possibilities.
If the modern DIY movement has a muse, it might be Mark Frauenfelder. A writer, an illustrator, a ukelele fanatic and the co-founder of the wildly popular Boing Boing, Mark is also the editor-in-chief of MAKE Magazine (the leading publication of the tech DIY movement) and the author of Made by Hand: Finding Meaning in a Throwaway World. This exploration of DIY isn't just a hobby either. As Seth Godin described it after reading Mark's book: "This is a spiritual journey, not merely a hobby. Tweaking, making and building are human acts, ones that are very easy to forget about as we sign up to become cogs in the giant machinery of consumption and production."
We caught up with Mark to find out if he's surprised by the size of the modern DIY movement, why people who make stuff are so interesting to be around, and what he wants to make next.
Seth Godin named Boing Boing as one of the best business blogs on the Web. Does it surprise you that he considers it a must read for business people? I'm not surprised, because Boing Boing is a good way for anyone to figure out what the zeitgeist of the Web is, and learn what tech-savvy people are interested in.
You're also the editor and founder of MAKE magazine and you wrote the book Made by Hand. What are some things you haven't made by hand yet but would like to? One thing I'm planning to make my own freeze-dried astronaut ice cream. I am also working on a robotic monkey that will detect when my cats jump on the bed and scare them away, so they don't shed fur on the covers.
Have you been surprised by how popular the DIY movement has become since founding MAKE? Why or why not? I'm not really surprised that the DIY movement is growing. Once people start making things, they want to keep on branching out and making other things. It's addictive. And when those people post their projects of the web, it inspires other people to give it a try. I think the movement will continue to grow. There's no end in sight!
What are some new pleasures you're finding from making your own things over time? Lately I've been learning electronics. I'm really enjoying making unusual noisemaking boxes. I built a little device that lets people make science-fictiony music by touching their friends on the arm, nose, ear, etc.
Do you think crowdfunding projects like those on Kickstarter are related to the DIY movement? Crowdfunding is a terrific way to provide people with the resources they need to complete long-term projects. It opens up new possibilities for makers, who otherwise would have to search for traditional investors, and thus relinquish a lot of control over their creations.
Technology is also a big part of your life and a big part of technology is the race for the next cool gadget or faster upgrade. How do you personally balance the disposable tech world and the DIY movement? I try to spend at least 15 minutes a day doing "analog stuff." That might be whittling, sketching, or making yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, etc. 15 minutes doesn't sound like a long time, but it's very refreshing!
You once observed that people who knit are fun to hang around because they're usually in a good mood. Any other observations about people who make stuff by hand? They usually know about interesting books that I never would have heard of had I not spoken to them. That's because makers are also knowledge seekers, and they like to dig deep.
Speaking of making things... have you ever considered bringing back the Boing Boing print zine? Yes! It's on the back burner, but I actually have several articles, comics, and artwork for a another print issue of Boing Boing. I may do it as a Kickstarter.
Follow Mark on Twitter @Frauenfelder.