zines for data justice

A workshop on zine politics and aesthetics

Or, how and why the content and form of independent DIY publishing matters for community

My Recent Zine Scholarship

Discussion of zine making as a research-creation method in a 2020 article with Deborah Lupton in Qualitative Research

Online webinar on zine making as a social research method in the Vitalities Lab Breaking Methods Webinar Series

Forthcoming article on the meaning and materiality of zines in the American Journal of Cultural Sociology with Andy Bennett

Do-It-Yourself & Anti-Mainstream

DIY is an amateur and participatory mode of engagement. In zine cultures, DIY is an ethos and an aesthetic:

  • Anyone can do it
  • An open invitation to participate
  • Critique of dominant culture
  • Active making of alternatives
  • Attention to so-called mundane, everyday
  • Anti profit models and anti skill gatekeeping
  • Stand against mainstream/professional print and online publishing

Intimacy & Intensity

DIY is an amateur and participatory mode of engagement. In zine cultures, DIY is an ethos and an aesthetic:

  • Handmade elements
  • Tangible textures
  • Personal voice
  • Content on emotional and bodily feelings
  • Small physical size, can be held in hand or kept in pocket
  • Simple design
  • Readable focus, passion and care

Some contemporary analogue, digital and hybrid examples:

I make zines using analogue, digital and hybrid methods.

I use found images and text from magazines and old illustrated books, wrapping and/or craft paper (printed and transparent), washi tape, scanned found materials like leaves and paper rubbish, CC0 digital images, digital tools like InDesign templates and platforms like Canva. My bindings use staples or paper clips, and sometimes I sew them. I photocopy my print runs myself and make most zines freely available in read online and DIY print formats.



Your total page numbers need to be divisible by four

Your page layout will be very different to read online only zines — doing this by hand can be easier

If you stick to 8 pages, you can make a zine with a single piece of paper


The photocopier is still king for analogue work, but lots of indie publishers use risograph printing now

Some useful InDesign tips are shared here for getting a risograph-esque style with a digital work

If you like the handmade aesthetic but need a digital publication, scanning in materials that have visual depth and a texture help create a tangible and experiential quality, and avoid that ‘flat’ screen-based feeling — e.g. torn and crumpled paper, corrugated card, string bindings

It’s these kinds of sensory qualities that give a zine that ‘from my hands to yours’ feeling, and make the content you’re trying to communicate affective and engaging

What brings the zine/indie publishing ethos and political orientation to life is how we unite content and form — there is an important level of creative unity that, even in (and because of) a DIY quality, makes visible the care and attention that went into the production. This is what matters in a material sense for how and why zines and independent publishing persists as an important vehicle for community communication and connection

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