DIY Culture: When Hackers Become Makers

iphone docking station by woodtec - click image to view more

Craft has long been a haven for hackers. Lacking traditional apprenticeships or fine arts educations, craftspeople have hacked, reverse engineered, and otherwise experimented their way to creative success.

Do it yourself often means teach yourself.

And there’s no better way to do that than by to tear it apart & put it back together again.

Of course, this is just one more similarity between craft & the software industry. While universities & technical schools continue to spew out highly trained IT professionals, the skills they really need are learn-on-the-job: troubleshooting, dissecting, improvising.

Outside the trained masses are even more untrained computer whizzes and programming geeks.

Software like WordPress (swoon…) and Mozilla Firefox (sigh…) are built by masses of self-motivated, unpaid programmers & technicians who have hacked their way to an internet revolution.

Marketplaces like Etsy & Supermarket are stocked with products crafted by men & women with no formal training but with passion, drive, and vision to fill an ocean.

Hacking is evolving from a destructive force in business into a creative one.
– John Gerzema, Inc Magazine

So often we get stuck on doing things “the right way” that we forget “the best way” may not have been invented yet.

How have you used hacking to further your own skills as a maker?

9 thoughts on “DIY Culture: When Hackers Become Makers

  1. In another life, long, long ago, I used to be a computer programmer and, yes, I guess I was a hacker of sorts. I started just as PCs were really becoming mainstream (early 80’s), and I worked for our family business writing all of our software from scratch. Even though I started out wanting to obtain a degree in fine arts, I ended up with a degree in communication studies, which meant I had studied film and television production. I never used that degree amd went straight from college to the computer job.

    I had very little computer training, so I hacked and clawed my way into learning computer programming. I always likened computer programming to the creative process of an artist. I started with a blank canvas and wrote code, moved code around, changed code, trashed code until I came up with a masterpiece that actually did what I needed it to do. The same right-brain way of thinking and the thrill that comes from thinking like that is very much at play when writing computer code. There is also never one “right” way to tell a computer what to do with computer code just as there is never a “right” way to create a work of art. It’s the creativity and ingenuity of the programmer and the artist that leads them down the path to their finished product.

  2. I was actually just thinking this the other day! Not only do crafters hack their way through making something from nothing, they take something and make it into something better. I think IKEA might be supported solely by people buying cheep stuff and turning it into customized monuments of awesome, beautiful, and useful. That’s also how upcycling was born. One of my clients, for instance, didn’t need a vintage necktie, but she did want a 100% silk wedding garter. Good luck fidning a text book telling you how to turn one into the other!

  3. It’s interesting. I came out of that same world of computer technology, only my main interest was the hardware and structures. I worked, when my kids were very small, as a secretary in an organization that didn’t value secretaries very much. There was a PC there that I could use sometimes, and one night when everyone had left, I armed myself with a screwdriver and the IBM manuals, opened up the case, and had a good look at everything inside. Though I later went through a fair amount of schooling and training, and got several certifications, that was how I started. Making computers communicate with one another was always my driving force.

    I suppose I’m still the same way with my craft–fitting things together into a workable, meaningful whole.

    It saddens me that the word “hacker” has gotten such a bad connotation. When I got started, it was a term of high praise, reserved for those who could find the best, most elegant solutions to the problem at hand.

  4. You know, I never thought of it before I read this post but I honed my skills as a seamstress ‘hacking’ store bought clothes ~ taking them apart for customers and putting them back together so they would fit better ~ or, taking out a broken zipper and paying attention to each step of the process so I could reverse the procedure and make the garment good as new (or better).

    Improving and reinventing through ‘hacking’ ~ I have something in common with all the cool techie people :-)

  5. Just because something’s always been done one way, doesn’t mean it’s the only or best way to do it. It definitely doesn’t make it the best way for you to do it. Innovation, another way of looking at ‘hacking,’ makes the world go round (& prevents stagnation). Thanks for another great post!

  6. Wow does this one hit home. My current work comes from a series of ironies. I went to art school later in life and graduated with a degree in illustration and zero computer skills at precisely the time computer art was all the rage. When I graduated I bought my first computer with a student discount and taught myself. I never acquired the skills to compete with the “big boys” but I got enough work to get by. I’ll skip the grad school and teaching part and fast forward to today. I am completely self taught in Photoshop which is my medium, and have figured out how to build a website via WordPress (serious swoon). I am learning with and through people like yourself and have never been happier. My college experience was not a waste, but has little to do with what I am now.

    My husband is an electrician by trade with no college experience. He now works as a machine designer and is the self taught equivalent of a mechanical engineer. He loves his job!

    We are living in a time when innovation and DIY are critical to survival in my opinion. Those of us that are naturals will pave the way for what is next. I think what is key is being OK with not knowing exactly where we are headed.

  7. Exactly! I do have a formal fine arts education, but here I am being a crafter, not an artist. They taught me a lot about how to think, but almost nothing about how to DO.

    I started out fiddling around with a few bead materials and the job’s tears beads I’d grown and found myself unable to stop the creative flow, so I just went with it. But because my enormous creative drive wasn’t propped up by a lot of technical know-how, there were a lot of re-dos at the beginning! I basically hacked my way through all of it. From how to hand knot a necklace on silk cord (so different from all the wire-wrapping that’s more common) through how to run a business and build my website and take product photos. Thank goodness for supportive family and friends who’ve been my guinea pigs and my encouragement!

    I really do appreciate what I got out of my formal arts education, but I feel like I missed half of what I needed. It suits my personality to be figuring it out on my own down here in the amethyst and labradorite-lined trenches, though :)

    Thank goodness for what my life has turned into!

  8. The first ever computers were created by hackers — who kept pushing what the most basic computers could do. Thanks to hackers we have what we do today personal computers and much more, the world was changed!

    For example they made a computer that could beep, and with those beeps they could make it play in sequences to play music etc.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *