Let’s Build Something
Posted by bonnieallen12
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.
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