DIY Citizenship: Critical Making and Social Media

By Luther, Jason | Composition Studies, Spring 2015 | Go to article overview

DIY Citizenship: Critical Making and Social Media


Luther, Jason, Composition Studies


DIY Citizenship: Critical Making and Social Media, edited by Matt Ratto and Megan Boler. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2014. 450 pp.

If multimodality requires us to shift the primary subjectivity of our students from "writers" to "makers," then the potential of do-it-yourself (DIY) provides both an extracurricular site and a productive (or even necessary) public and political exigence for the materiality of students' makings. Whether DIY describes an ethos, process, production, culture, or is simply a standalone noun, it carries with it a number of questions about who controls what gets made, by whom, when, where, and especially how. Put another way, it asks, what rhetorical agency do we have given our available means of production, circulation, and sponsorship, especially in the digital age? These are just some of the essential issues taken up by DIY Citizenship: Critical Making and Social Media, an exciting, ambitious interdisciplinary edited collection representing the fields of communication, journalism, education, sociology, women and gender studies, and, of course, media and cultural studies.

Based on revised and expanded papers from an international conference convened by the editors in 2010, the contributions to DIY Citizenship range in terms of the makers they consider as much as the things they make, including open source software (chapters one and two), fan sites (chapters three, seven, and twenty-two), pirate radio stations (chapter four), ID cards (chapter five), zines and comics (chapters six, twenty-four, twenty-five), spectacles and hoaxes (chapter eight), knitting and e-textiles (chapters nine and twelve), local television programs and documentary films (chapters eleven, thirteen, fourteen), games (chapter fifteen), growbots (chapter seventeen), vox pop (chapter twenty-three), and, of course, social media. Holding the collection together are the terms of the book's title-DIY and citizenship-which are consistently and thoroughly defined, explored, contested, and refreshed throughout all the chapters. Helpfully, many authors also introduce new terminology-such as Daniela K. Rosner and Miki Foster's inscribed material ecologies (189), Mandy Rose's cocreative media (207), and Joshua McVeigh-Schultz's civic ritual (313)-which scholars of media and multimodality might find useful in further theorizing hybrid media, participatory processes, or subjectivities crafted via maker identities that have powerful effects on what we make and who we make them with.

One term that is threaded throughout the book is co-editor Matt Ratto's critical making, what he defines here and previously as "materially productive, hands on work intended to uncover and explore conceptual uncertainties, parse the world in ways that language cannot, and disseminate the results of these explorations through embodied material forms" (227). In short, for Ratto, making is an important process for interrupting and influencing one's social reality through material play and circulation. Many of the chapters speak to these possibilities.

For instance, in chapter one (and in playful fashion), Steve Mann introduces the terms maktivists-authentic, amateur makers, who design and create material things for social change (29)-and tinquiry, which combines tinkering with inquiry in order to theorize a pedagogy where student hackers reverse engineer things through a three pronged process Mann calls praxistemology. Praxistemology combines praxis, existential reflection, and critical questioning as an "academic counterpart" to activities of making and is representative of a larger thread in the pedagogically oriented chapters of this collection that argue for reflection as an important dimension to making. For composition teachers it may bring to mind innovations such as Jody Shipka's "Statement of Goals and Choices," from her book Toward a Composition Made Whole, which asks students to document and detail the rhetorical, technological, and methodological choices they make as they produce multimodal compositions. …

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