Welcome to the first of what we hope will be a series of Civic Paths “hotspots.” These collections of mini-blog posts are organized around themes that cut across the diverse interests of participants in our research group. They’re about the things we love to talk about. And, like our in-person conversations, they play with ideas at the intersection of participatory culture, civic engagement, and new media. Our rules for the hotspot are these: No one gets to spend a million hours wordsmithing — these are idea starters, not finishers — and posts shouldn’t be a whole lot longer than five hundred words.
Kicking it off: The Dark Side(s) of DIY
Don’t get me wrong: I love DIY. I muddled through the acquisition of basic sewing skills (thanks, Internet) to make a much-loved, crooked crib skirt for my daughter. My now-husband and I navigated the complexities of his immigration to the U.S. without hiring a lawyer, relying entirely on a discussion board about fiancée visas. Last year, we even put a fountain in our backyard (it was crooked, too).
In fact, I venture to say we all love DIY—and are genuinely excited about the role of new media technologies for amplifying the possibilities to make stuff, share stuff, spread stuff and generally participate in public life in a million different ways. But we also believe that DIY (or at least the mythology of DIY) has some dark sides.
Liana  and Sam  remind us that just because you do it yourself doesn’t mean that what you make will find an audience, or even that what you make will be any good. Kevin  considers the often-fraught relationship some DIY practitioners have to potentially dubious funding streams, and Lana  points out that the business of DIY can often be the selling of awful. Andrew  looks at what happens when crowdfunding goes awry and DIY communities try to mete out justice online. Rhea  also examines online communities taking matters into their own hands, highlighting the misunderstandings and mishaps that get created in the process.
Neta  and I  share an interest in the ways that beliefs about DIY political knowledge—everyone should be a fact checker! Figure out everything for yourself!—may shut down possibilities for political engagement. Mike  takes on the contradictions behind the idea of DIY news, and Raffi  wonders whether the race to make and spread the pithiest, funniest political nuggets is taking away from other forms of online political talk.
With these posts, we hope to collectively shed light on some of the difficulties that arise from an otherwise celebrated mode of creation and engagement. And while we all love DIY and its range of possibilities for civic life, we think pulling back the curtain to show when it goes wrong is an important step in figuring out how DIY can take us even further in the future.
– Kjerstin Thorson (Assistant Professor of Journalism)
 On Finding an Audience, or Why I’m Not a Rock Star, by Liana Gamber Thompson
 Producing Poop, by Sam Close
 Makerspaces and the Long, Weird History of DIY Hobbyists & Military Funding, by Kevin Driscoll
 Blogging and Boycotting in the “Schadenfreude Economy”, by Lana Swartz
 Gatekeepers of DIY?, by Andrew Schrock
 DIY Citizenship & Kony 2012 Memes, by Neta Kligler-Vilenchik
 Figure It Out for Yourself, by Kjerstin Thorson
 Why “DIY News” Could Be a Contradiction in Terms, by Mike Ananny
 Memed, Tumbled, & Tweeted, by Raffi Sarkissian