The Problem of Digital DIY: Life-change and the re/configuration of domestic entertainment, information and communication technology

Phil Ely

BA(Hons), PGCE

Research topics

  • Ethnography
  • Home entertainment technology
  • Life-change
  • Users
  • Design

I started my Ph.D. project in October 2005 at DWRC and the Department of Sociology. My supervisors are Prof. David Frohlich and Dr. Nicola Green.

This project is supported by Novari & the University for the Creative Arts, where I hold the position of Associate Dean, Head of Business & Community School. Further info on my academic and professional practice can be found on LinkedIn.

I am a Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce (RSA), a Member of the Usability Professionals Association, and a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)’s Special Interest Group on Human Computer Interaction (SIGCHI). |

Research Project Abstract

‘The Problem of digital-DIY’ research project is exploring how people experiencing life-change configure and re-configure their domestic entertainment, information and communication technologies. The project is informed by a number of disciplinary perspectives, including concepts emergent from human-computer interaction, the social construction of technology, material culture and design studies and is methodologically rooted in the ethnographic tradition. In trying to understand the concept of digital-DIY I am engaging in a multi-sited ethnography of how people experiencing life-change engage in this conceptual activity of ‘d-DIY. The activity enrols not only a broad social network through the real and the virtual but is beset with a number of ‘problem-solving’ opportunities just like those found in traditional DIY activity. Digital-DIY is a very ‘social’ activity that reconnects not only artefacts but people too. However, this community activity is undermined by significant infrastructure problems with power, cabling and broadband connectivity and it is this intertwined network of people, artefacts and systems that I am exploring in my research project.

Recent Academic Research

Ely, P (forthcoming 2010) Uncertainty, Upheavals and Upgrades in New Media Technologies and User Empowerment (Eds. Jo Pierson, Enid Mante-Meijer and Eugène Loos) to be published by Peter Lang, Berlin.

Ely, P & White, H (forthcoming 2010) Weaving Narratives in Looking Out: Effective engagements with creative & cultural enterprise, Dept. for Culture, Media & Sport/ADM-HEA, London.

Ely, P, Frohlich, D & Green, N (2009) 'Uncertainty, upheavals & upgrades: home entertainment, information and communication technologies during life-change', Proceedings of the COST298 Conference The Good, The Bad & The Challenging, Copenhagen. (Published proceedings: ISBN 978-9-616277-17-4)

Ely (2008) Digital Upheavals: Ethnographic studies on digital-DIY activity, Proceedings of the International Workshop on Social Interaction and Mundane Technologies 2008, Microsoft Research: Cambridge.

Ely, P & Shed, R (2007), Single Lives, Personal Spaces: Autoethnography and design for solo living, Not In The Manual Symposium, UCA Farnham, November 2007.


Author, Home Entertainment – Episode 1’(2005) 1st February, 2005.

Designer/Inventor – Ethnoview (2005) collaborative ethnographic software tool.

Recent Practice-Based Research

Brand Identity for for etv Media Group plc (2009).

Brand Identity & website design for Digital World Research Centre, University of Surrey (2009).

Brand Identity & Call for Papers for Dance & Spectacle, for Society of Dance History Scholars/Department of Dance, University of Surrey (2009).