Making and repairing places for making and repairing


  • Philip Hector


Collective DIY (do-it-yourself) is a phenomenon that is increasingly connected with struggles for autonomy. Autonomy here is seen as creating shared resources and the means of continuously steering the activities of the collective. Therefore, this article explores contemporary, collective DIY initiatives, and the relation of design and autonomy in such initiatives, based on three cases from Finland and Germany. The first case is a sewing cafe located close to Ulm that has operated as a living lab for research on sustainable consumption since 2016. The second case is a cultural lab in Helsinki, which was open for all to participate in and ran on an internal currency for one year until its closure, in 2017. Finally, the third case is a cultural lab in Berlin, which has provided a space for a variety of DIY activities since 2010. The paper conceptualizes the initiatives with the notion of infrastructure in order to better understand how these initiatives create conditions for different ways of being and acting from a design perspective. I complement this concept with a practice-theoretical approach in order to see if these different ways of acting hold any potential for autonomy in everyday life. Empirical evidence, including evidence from interviews with the organizers and participant observation, indicates that DIY collectives organize around ideals of creativity, democratic and mutually supportive relations, and sets of commons. Whilst evidence on the broader impacts of the initiatives is scarce, skills, common resources, and alternative spaces outside the market logic have potential for autonomy in everyday life.

Keywords: DIY, DIT, autonomy, infrastructuring, practice theory.






Special Issue: Autonomía - Design strategies for enabling design process