Let’s Build Something

Over the course of the past several years, the web has evolved into a user-generated space, known as web 2.0. According to Rheingold, Wellman’s response to the single most important change with the shift to digital socializing is “the shift from group-centered to network-centered life.” The group-centered life is limited to a group of people that know each other, whereas the network-centered life provides a platform where people can connect and share knowledge, regardless of location or whether they know each other.

One example of a user-generated space is Youtube’s DIY channels. From life hacks, to woodworking projects, and crafts, DIY culture has dominated the internet, allowing people to take on new challenges and hobbies. Back in March, when Covid started its initial peak, I was quarantining with a friend who was eager to tackle a full bathroom renovation. My friend has a knack for fixing things, while I on the other hand, can’t seem to get to square one. Nonetheless, in attempt to contribute to the renovations, I resorted to Youtube.

In Wolf’s article, DIY videos on Youtube: Identity and possibility in the age of algorithms, Wolfe touches on the idea of “identity making,” where people become more confident about the possibilities of what they can achieve. As a novice renovator, I resorted to Youtube’s DIY channels for some guidance. I started with small tasks but eventually moved up to bigger projects like gutting the bathroom, laying down floor tile, installing new features, and even assisted with plumbing. Feeling a sudden boost of confidence, I was reminded of an article I found years back (2008) about a mother of four who moved away from her abusive husband to build a new home in a safe place for her kids. With just enough money for supplies, her and her family built a new home from scratch just from watching Youtube videos. I was always amazed by this article (link below), and more amazed now considering the platform wasn’t nearly what it is today. While DIY culture continues to sweep the internet, it’s important to be aware accuracy and credibility.  

Like the students in Wolfe’s article, I approached some of the platforms with skepticism. Being completely new to renovating, I evaluated the videos’ credibility. Oddly enough, I was more critical of the professional videos, as I felt more at ease with the raw, unscripted videos. Given my lack of experience, I felt more capable of completing the projects by watching those videos. The professional videos, although potentially more credible, either required high-end tools or cut out the gritty, realistic aspects of the job.

While browsing a wide variety of other platforms in attempt to find relevant sources, I noticed my browsing selections determined my recommendations. For example, while looking at different tile schemes on Pinterest, my recommendations suddenly filled with patterns of all colors and varieties. While in this case, the algorithmic manipulation was positive, the algorithm can be misleading. Wolfe quotes Eskami who states, “Many individuals are unaware that their online experiences are algorithmically curated, often attributing how and when content is presented to the actions of other users rather then the platform itself.” While social media tailors to an individual’s interest, it traps the individual in their own bubble. A case to this point is browsing history related to politics. If the algorithm only shares content the user will like, the user will not view any outside opinions to counter or question their own beliefs or “narrowing their information worlds.”

Despite some of the downsides, the ability to connect to informational resources and achieve new hobbies or projects is quite remarkable. Social media has created a space for people to link up, form communities, and share knowledge in a much more engaging way. And while I may never be able to build a house from scratch, I can at least say I have a bathroom renovation under my belt.

Rheingold, H. (2012). Net Smart: How to Thrive Online. London: The MIT Press. 

https://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/6787/5517

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/mother-of-four-cara-brookins-builds-her-family-a-house-by-watching-youtube-tutorials/

Posted on September 27, 2020, in Social Media and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. rebeccaanderson8641

    Hi Bonnie,
    Great post! I’m very impressed with your bathroom renovation. Content sharing opportunities have definitely opened up new possibilities for novices. You can learn virtually anything on the internet, from how to play an instrument to how to fix a toilet! The sheer volume of content and its relatively easy searchability has radically lowered the barrier to entry for so many skills.
    In this manner, the internet has significantly improved accessibility and has leveled certain playing fields. Thirty years ago, I’m not sure that you would have been able to make over your bathroom with such success in such a short period of time. Your best resource might have been the library but even still you would have needed dozens of different resources which likely would have contained information that was irrelevant to your project. Your only realistic option would have been to pay someone, I assume.
    Having such accessibility and shareability is one of the significant benefits of the internet. If you can learn to make over your bathroom for free, what else can you learn?
    Great job!

    • Hi Rebecca – The picture I posted wasn’t the one I renovated, although I sure wish it was! I posted it for the sake of the DIY theme. And great points! The sky is the limit. I have found Youtube to be helpful in many binds. Without it, I’m sure it would have taken me a lot longer!

  2. You’ve made great connections here between Rheingold and the Wolf article and I was most struck by this passage:

    Oddly enough, I was more critical of the professional videos, as I felt more at ease with the raw, unscripted videos. Given my lack of experience, I felt more capable of completing the projects by watching those videos. The professional videos, although potentially more credible, either required high-end tools or cut out the gritty, realistic aspects of the job.

    I think that captures the essence of web 2.0 and how it has evolved. Even though TIME magazine made big headlines in 2006 for naming “YOU” as person of the year, I think more audiences [because they’ve either grown accustomed to relying on online resources or simply grew up with it] are finally on board nowadays. Having more in common with the everyday person rather than the professional with the fancy tools for DIY projects is a wonderful illustration of how evaluating for ethos has also changed online and perhaps why so many turn to YouTube.

  3. Hi Bonnie!

    I can relate so much to your experience! I often rely on youtube DIY videos as well as tutorial videos to help me, especially in my school work. In the graphic design major, we often learn about designing, but not much about how to use the tools at our disposal. I often rely on photoshop tutorials as well as other tutorials for different programs to help me learn how to create different effects that I need for my design. While we do have access to Lynda, a website that teaches all that we need to know about how to operate these tools, I find that it comes off too academic, making it harder for me to learn and understand them. Youtube tutorials are generally visually more interesting and fun for me to learn from and is where I gain the main bulk of my knowledge. This also extends to other areas of my learning experience as well. While I learn a great deal from my drawing courses, sometimes just watching a professional artist like Jim Lee draw and explain his process can be extremely educational as well as fun. I tend to learn much better from content that aims to be fun or relatable.

  4. Hi Bonnie,

    I enjoyed reading your post! Something that stood out to me was your discussion on “network” versus “group” centered life. I also rely on YouTube and other forms of social media to answer my questions and show me certain skills. Before Web 2.0 allowed for this, the only source of answers and tutorials would be from who you knew. If I had a question on how to plant an indoor garden, some of my only resources would be from family or friends. With the onset of the internet, “network-centered” spaces have been created for us to use as resources instead. This widened our reach and capability to learn new skills and find what we are passionate about. Instead of relying just on a close group for information, users can simply search online to find specific spaces dedicated to what they are looking for. Furthermore, this helps us as users learn about a topic in a broader sense. If I click on one tutorial video and do not like the method, I can simply click to the next one to see an alternative process. Access to this information allows us to personalize what we learn about and how we accomplish it. Nice post!

    Best,

    Bailey

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