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Extensions on Suburbia

Part 1 Dissertation 2000
Sally Pearce
University of Westminster | UK
A study of suburbia, sociality and mass consumption with respect to the phenomenon of DIY culture. Is DIY merely a singular act of consumption or true self expression? How does this relate to the nature of identity in the suburban home?

“A material culture is created as much by social life as rationalist economic utilitarianism, it is the objects relationship to the social group which is crucial, rather than its ability to perform transformation of nature under signs of utility.” Daniel Miller

I would like to suggest that the phenomena of “do-it-yourself”, a very suburban, male associated activity has a fundamental relationship with the social life of British suburbia that goes beyond the practical nature of home improvement. That the finished product of such activities plays a relatively minor role in the importance of 'Do-It-Yourself' in the suburban home, but that the activity, the process is paramount.
To understand the nature of DIY, whether it is really a true act of individual expression, or another form of mere self-indulgence, it is necessary to look at its entire process. A means of attempting to define its roles and affects would perhaps be achieved through breaking down the process of the activity into five areas
The consumed object, the power drill.
The place of consumption, the out-of-town DIY warehouse.
The act of home improvement, skill, or lack of. “Why pay someone else to bodge it”
The subject, the DIY enthusiast.
and finally the outcome, the aesthetics of the DIY “improved” home.
Do-It Yourself is a product of suburbia and thus acts as a representation of suburban ideals. It demonstrates the significance both of the importance of the home as possession and as a means of defining its occupants and how they wish to be seen by the outside world. It clearly represents the importance of consumption within the suburban environment and represents the move from community to the individual and the home which is so predominant in suburban life.
Architects have had traditionally little role in the creation of suburbia, understanding that integrity of design has little importance in such environments. Architects have tended to dismiss suburbia as popularist, conformist, conservative and banal. By failing to maintain an important role in suburban development architects have excluded themselves from any real influence or input into a built environment that not only houses a vast proportion of the population, but, is also an environment that is proving to have a fundamental influence on contemporary urban life.
As suburbia in general is criticised and depicted as a homogenised mass of middle Englanders, DIY shows that suburbia, the real home of the Do-it-Yourself, must and does possess a wide and complex environment. DIY is one of the means by which this is demonstrated.

Sally Pearce

In her tutor John Bold's opinion Sally Pearce's Dissertation was 'a well researched and considered presentation.....consistently intelligent and questioning.'
It stood out from other Dissertations this year for its conclusiveness and the sophistication of its graphic layout.

Andrew Peckham (Dissertation Co-ordinator)

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