“‘Do it yourself’ means literally that. It typically refers to amateur home improvements and handicrafts. It can also refer to the ‘have a go’ attitude of sub and counter-culture movements.” (source:


The term first appeared in the American magazine “Suburban Life” in 1912. In the 1950s the DIY movement took place in the UK because of a lack of craftsmen, high prizes and bulk orders of large companies. It spread to Germany in the 1960s and the first construction market was opened in Mannheim. Being used by punks in the 1970s, the term‘s meaning expanded in 1990s through the internet. Today DIY can be encountered in almost all subject areas.


Reasons for the DIY movement are the individual fulfillment, the “prosuming” of the client (which means that the client is an active participant of the production process), the desire for transparency, a life in an affluent society and the desire to create something on one‘s own, the pursuit of change and improvement and getting a feeling for the self-made product. Moreover, there is the longing to translate the digitalized everyday life into a more haptic reality.

Different aspects of DIY

One can distinguish between four different aspects of DIY: Hobby, work, knowledge and media.

DIY hobby includes everything concerning free time, some examples are shown on The terms of DIY hobby and DIY work blur, so generally (but not exclusively) DIY work refers to earning money with one‘s hobby. One example for this aspect is An example of a person who cannot be clearly assigned to one of the aspects is the architect Van Bo Le-Mentzel. He designed furniture like the “Berliner Hocker” and the “24-Euro-Chair” of which the blueprints can be ordered for free with your story or results in return. Van Bo Le-Mentzel does not earn money with the products themselves but with lectures, books and workshops about them.

Formerly, DIY knowledge was adopted by experiments and construction kits. With the internet, new forms of information and knowledge management have been developed. Examples for DIY knowledge are Wikipedia, and laboratories. Wikipedia is a well-known example of DIY knowledge because firstly everyone can share his knowledge and then the community can control and optimize the articles aiming at a correct and detailed encyclopedia. Wikipedia stands for free access knowledge. is a not-profit platform for “ideas worth spreading”. With TEDed as the latest achievement they created a collection of lectures on different topics. Teachers can use and remix these videos for their lessons and post them again afterwards. The laboratories are places where various people can “make, learn and share” in workshops.

The early examples of DIY media starting in 1900 were self-made cameras and film experiments. Through the web 2.0 the distribution of own media products achieved new dimensions. The best known example for DIY media is YouTube. Another example are “fanzines”. These are amateurish magazines of different kinds of like-minded people, often reproduced by means of photocopy or offset. With the internet, E-Zines were established with contents in the form of HTML or PDF.


Ultimately, it is important to note that there is a difference between copying a product and adapting an idea. Both of them refer to the thought of open source but only the latter changes the source code by adapting and remixing.

Of course there are also limits of DIY defined by the individual‘s expertise and consequences of exceeding these limits. Not everything can be covered by DIY.



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