This week we read the introductory chapter of Lankshear And Knobel (2008) Ch1: DIY Media: A Contextual Background And Some Contemporary Themes.
Once again Lankshear and Knobel put together an engaging and interesting perspective on new media. I had never thought of the act of participating and creating in new media as part of the DIY movement, but it works very well.
The readings this week made me examine my own affinity for DIY media and recognize that my interest in DIY media sprouted long ago.
It was the late 90s. I had been a moderately successful insurance broker. In 1998, however, the company I worked for decided to try to force out rather than fire our entire department and proceeded to significantly reduce our pay, products, and commissions. It would seem like a fairly easy solution right? Start applying for a new job! However, I had a bit of a complication at the time. I was 5 months pregnant with my second child.
I decided I would take a second job to supplement the loss of income and work the minimum hours to continue to keep my benefits while I tried to figure out what else to do. I went to a temporary agency and as kismet would have it, the first interview they sent me on was for a company located just minutes from my house, and probably even luckier was that the HR person interviewing me took pity on me and hired me. I was to fill in for the graphic designer who they had just fired. Yes, I was not really qualified to do this job, but I certainly needed to try.
I inherited folders of graphic files created in Adobe Pagemaker (called a “desktop publishing” program at the time and an ancestor to Photoshop). It was at this time I now realize, that I entered the DIY media movement. I was thrown into the need to edit these documents, but was also tasked with discovering a way to convert them into a format that made it easier to distribute editable digital files to managers of corporate cafeterias, a group of people with limited computer time and skill. I found I was able to bend the graphic limits of familiar Microsoft products, especially Word and PowerPoint to create similar results to the more complicated programs and share these files in a format that was familiar and friendly to the managers. These were exciting and fun challenges to me, although I remember feeling like quite a fraud at the time. I knew I wasn’t a “real” graphic designer. I was a tinkerer and jury-rigger of simple tools to create the illusion of more sophisticated software.
So my story goes that I would go on to be offered a full-time job with that company after my maternity leave, and continue to flourish with that organization for another year before leaving to become a full-time parent to my two young sons. I had escaped the insurance world and recognized I would not return, but I didn’t really think my phony graphic design experiment would ever really come in handy again either.
Fast forward 7 years. As I returned to work I looked for a job that was interesting to me and close to my work. I entered a job with the training department at the airport. A newly purchased LMS made the possibility of internally created e-learning a reality for the first time. Our manager asked for volunteers to attend training to learn to use this new software. I was actually the only one vaguely interested.
It was on the first day of training for Articulate Studio that it hit me that this was the world I belonged in. The instructor showed us “new” ways to use PowerPoint like a blank canvas and tweak it to make it do amazing things. This not only validated the work I had done and loved previously, but also made me see that this work was the beginning of a movement. This was the work I had always had a passion for, and one that I also realized could combine a lot of my interests including: entertainment, communications, engagement, and marketing quite nicely, but it really hadn’t been accessible to me before. I also found that there was a whole industry of people wanting to share ideas and help each other with these projects.
I am not handy with a hammer or powertools, so I’ve certainly never thought of myself as a DIYer. This week I realized I have been a creative “produser” for some time. Through this kind of expression I have created a career, found my passion, and continue to learn exciting new things every day.
DIY media is a movement which puts creativity into the hands of anyone who cares to use it. We can tinker our way into amazing things, and now we can do it in concert and with the help of people all over the world. It is social, life-affirming, and powerful.
A couple of my favorite DIY e-learning affinity groups: