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DiDIY Report Summary

Project ID: 644344
Funded under: H2020-EU.2.1.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - DiDIY (Digital Do It Yourself)

Reporting period: 2015-01-01 to 2016-03-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Do-It-Yourself (DIY) is a long-standing phenomenon, characterized by individual activity to create, repair, and modify objects. It typically occurs outside of companies and without the support of paid professionals. People engage in DIY fields as diverse as mechanics and electronics to gardening, pottery, sewing, or home decoration, sometimes with economic justifications, but also driven by personal satisfaction, interest in extreme customization, or social reputation. In a context of industrialisation, that separated producers and users, DIY became a means for individuals to recover their autonomy by the productive and creative use of their skills and time.
Today, information processing technology is widespread, embedded in computers, smartphones, drones, 3D printers, home automation systems, etc, changing the role of DIY and the way DIYers operate. To designate this emerging socio-technological phenomenon of DIY enabled and reshaped by digital tools we coined the term “Digital Do-It-Yourself” (DiDIY).
The most important features of DiDIY, as identified in the early stage of Project research, are:
– DiDIY is both an activity and a mindset, hence with both object-related and subject-related components;
– The distinction between users and producers of artefacts is becoming fuzzy and new opportunities and threats emerge accordingly;
– DiDIY-related technologies and social practices amplify the creativity and skills of individuals who now can afford to develop digitally self-made objects;
– What an individual produces could be the outcome of contributions from a worldwide community of developers sharing their insights and ideas in a spirit of open knowledge and innovation.
DiDIY is then a primarily human-centric phenomenon, rapidly evolving thanks to the widespread social availability of affordable technological tools and the growing number of DiDIYers operating in communities. The impressive quantitative growth of individuals connected through these communities further lowers the technological and psychological barriers to new entries and thus makes DiDIY increasingly attractive.
In this dynamic context the Project aims at developing a well-structured body of knowledge to explore the social impact of DiDIY, to produce and disseminate information, models and guidelines to support education and policy making on DiDIY, and to engage in conversations of development and inspiration around this. It starts from the idea that DiDIY has the power to improve our society, but to this goal it would benefit from the input of a cultural strategy rather than being driven solely by the market and technology.
The subject is acknowledged to be multidimensional, and as such studied, by analysing how DiDIY is reshaping organization and work, and education and research, and by exploring how it is impacting on creative society and legal systems, and is changing creative design and ethics.
The development of a systemic interpretation is the challenge for the multidisciplinary research team, which is collaboratively exploring the phenomenon with implications on identity, privacy, reputation, responsibility, creativity, innovation, policy and politics, and will offer a roadmap fostering a vision of DiDIY-based human-centric European development.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The hypothesis at the basis of the Project and its structure is that DiDIY still requires a basic understanding of its features and dynamics before guidelines to support policy making on DiDIY can be effectively developed. Three main activities have been performed so far.
1. Development of a Knowledge Framework on DiDIY, that harmonises languages and research methodologies and proposes a structured interpretation of the phenomenon.
The Framework was developed as the result of the systematic collaboration of all partners. It also presents some preliminary data on DiDIY-related online communities and a draft ontology on DiDIY, providing the specifications for the under development simulation package “A Model of Making”.
2. Preliminary analysis on how DiDIY is reshaping organization and work, education and research.
The literature review was set up as a multidisciplinary task. The topics on which research started about organization and work are the impact of DiDIY on workers in manufacturing companies, the development of entrepreneurial activities in makers environments, and the impact of DiDIY on managerial roles formally entitled to deal with investments in digital technologies. Fieldwork was started on education and research by interviewing relevant stakeholders and intercepting spontaneous activities growing up in different countries and educational environments.
3. Design and activation of the Project dissemination infrastructure and first systematic related activities, also for guaranteeing the long term sustainability of the Project results and supporting the diffusion of DiDIY.
The Project website, including a blog, and social network accounts were activated. After direct contacts with representatives of all categories of stakeholders, Project members started to give interviews, write articles and submit scientific papers, in order to make the Project and its preliminary results known to different audiences. DiDIY has been presented at over seventy events so far. A rich documentation has been published, including a brochure, five factsheets, and free online courses of introduction to DiDIY. A policy on the sharing of Project results was drafted to assure dissemination under free licenses and open standard formats. The Project Legal Advisory Board was constituted, with reputed legal scholars and lawyers active in DiDIY-related fields. All documents presenting these results are accessible from the Project website.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The phenomenon of DIY has been relatively neglected in social studies to date, despite its emergence as a significant practice and movement over several decades, and its potential for driving improvements for individuals, schools, companies, organisations, and society as a whole. Digital tools have allowed a new emphasis of collaboration and open sharing within (Di)DIY, but before this Project this was rarely studied in a systematic way: the Project is thus innovative.
The Knowledge Framework under development highlights the human-centric nature of DiDIY and might become the first tool able to systematically analyse and interpret DiDIY, being built on a rich conceptual structure that takes into account:
- The main dimensions of involvement in DiDIY: DiDIY as cognitive process, individual practice, and group process in the societal context;
- The components of such involvement: DiDIY as activity and mindset, and DiDIYers as doers, adapters, makers, and creators;
- The necessary conditions of what DiDIY is and the multiple interpretations of what DiDIY may be, analysed using the four core perspectives of the Project: DiDIY in organisation and work, in education and research, in creative society, and in laws, rights and responsibilities.
The Project has integrated contributions from a broad range of academic disciplines and is showing that:
- (In organisation and work) digital technologies are transforming the concept of DIY by exploiting knowledge sharing within communities into new configurations of Digital Do-It-Together in which functional roles blur – this research could identify ways to achieve better individual and organizational performances by studying the features leveraging on, or conflicting toward, DiDIY within several different organizational domains;
- (In education and research) DiDIY is largely a bottom up phenomenon, related to the flow of skills and knowledge between stakeholders, the steps of learning processes and the outcomes, and the technology involved in learning processes – this research could indicate ways of improving the uptake of teaching/research tools as well as raise citizens’ expectations about the potential of DiDIY by mapping what is going on in different countries in different environment;
- (In creative society) DiDIY influences, alters, or empowers the dynamics of makers’ relationship to digital technologies, and it enables DiDIY communities to meet the challenge of local, social, and environmental problems in a new way – this research could help guide communities towards the creative resources they need for tackling problems, with a consequent impact upon policy making regarding support for DiDIY initiatives;
- (In laws, rights and responsibilities) current legal systems are challenged by and provide challenges to the emerging culture of DiDIY, as in the case of the “right to repair” which is needed in order to make production less environmentally damaging – this research could influence the formulation of future policy and legal measures by developing a clear overview of the main challenges and policy recommendations that fit with the new paradigm. The establishment of the Legal Advisory Board with external legal experts, lawyers and scholars will help guide these outcomes.
Furthermore, the research is showing that DiDIY-related phenomena can be effectively modelled and simulated, capturing the activity of making so to explore “what if” scenarios on the impact of DiDIY, in order to better understand the effect of: different licensing laws/systems on its growth; sharing and communication structures concerning how makers interact and organise themselves; how the development of makerspaces/fablabs could facilitate the development of DiDIY. This understanding will improve the development of the Knowledge Framework and eventually the policy recommendations of the Project.

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