Alex Tighe reviews 'Tinkering: Australians reinvent DIY culture' by Katherine Wilson

Alex Tighe reviews 'Tinkering: Australians reinvent DIY culture' by Katherine Wilson

Tinkering: Australians reinvent DIY culture

by Katherine Wilson

Monash University Publishing, $29.95 pb, 304 pp, 9781925495478

Alex Tighe

Alex Tighe

Alex Tighe is the Editorial Assistant at Neighbourhood Paper, and a Philosophy Honours and Law student at the University of


What is tinkering? As Katherine Wilson makes clear in Tinkering: Australians reinvent DIY culture, there is an easy answer to that question – but also several complex ones.

At the physical level, tinkering is what the protagonists in Wilson’s book do: they convert cars to run on vegetable oil; they build their homes by hand and perfect quince jam. One tinkerer whom Wilson profiles made a pedal-powered Random Excuse Generator; another fashioned a block of wood and slate to the exact proportions of an iPhone. Tinkering is the informal repair, improvement, and hacking of objects – and is an unconventional area for academic study. Wilson says that she feels ‘like the square-kid trying to codify the cool-kids’ fun’. But she needn’t worry; her writing is upbeat and delightful. Throughout the book we sense the rapport and deep care she develops for her subjects (one tinkerer died during Wilson’s research; the book is dedicated to him).

Read the rest of this article by purchasing a subscription to ABR Online, or subscribe to the print edition to receive access to ABR Online free of charge.

If you are a single issue subscriber you will need to upgrade your subscription to view back issues.

If you are already subscribed, click here to log in.