Although this post is mainly a book review I'm going to give some back story first. My brother tends to give me books for Christmas and Birthday gifts, and there is often what I have taken to calling an 'improving' one amongst them. I shouldn't tease, because he is very good at choosing, and his gifts have inspired me to read lots of books on subject I would probably never have picked for myself.
Last Christmas' improving book was very suitable for me
Making is Connecting. The Social meaning of creativity, from DIY and knitting to YouTube and Web 2.0.
What did I learn from this book? Basically (and slightly facetiously) that my knitting, sewing and blogging is make me happier and making the world a better place! :)
More seriously the author, David Gauntlett, argues that by creating and sharing we are contributing not only to our own personal happiness, but that by building (real and virtual) networks we can create a healthy community and work towards improving society as a whole.
As a former history student I especially enjoyed the first chapter which explored the philosophies of John Ruskin and William Morris, encouraging everyone to make things, which will increase happiness, encourage self-expression, and make a mark on the word. According to Ruskin its important to value the imperfect in what is made;
go forth again to gaze upon the old cathedral front ... examine once more the ugly goblins, and formless monsters, and stern statues, anatomyless and rigid; but do not mock at them, for they are signs of the life and liberty of every workman who struck the stone; a freedom of thought
|Carvings from Kilpeck Church, Herefordshire|
The book goes on to look at crafting today, to stress the importance of the process over the end product, and to see the possibility in the web, especially web 2.0, for enabling community building. He name checked Ravelry, 'the superb social network for knitter'. He goes on to explore the theory of social capital and the role of creativity in acting as a form of social glue, and improving not just our own life but the community as a whole.
I'm not going to attempt any analysis or criticism of the theories put forward in the book, I don't feel competent too. But what I will say is that I really enjoyed reading this book, it introduced new and interesting ideas to me, and made me think about what my creativity means to me. My crafting does make me happier, after a long day at work I love to come home and sew, or knit, or blog about doing these things. It has also introduced me to lots of lovely and supportive communities and individuals I would not otherwise have met. It had also probably given me more confidence in myself, and self expression. Maybe I didn't need to read this book to realise these things, but it made me think about them more, and I learnt new things along the way. So, if you haven't read it already, I'd certainly recommend this book and hopefully it will leave you with some new ideas and, like me, a warm fuzzy glow inside for being a crafter :)