"Primitive building" videos deemed fraudulent

Originally published at: "Primitive building" videos deemed fraudulent | Boing Boing


That’s good to hear that the original Primitive Technology channel holds up to scrutiny because I always enjoyed that one and the videos from that guy seemed pretty authentic to me. I already assumed that a lot of the imitators were faking stuff and taking shortcuts so I never paid much attention to them.


And I thought the tiny house and shipping container house videos were hiding a lot of stuff.


The same thing is going on with a lot of restoration YouTube channels, which purport to show the restoration of very old machinery. I started watching these because the first few were pretty cool, but it quickly became apparent that a lot of them were fake, either using a relatively new item that they dirtied up and maybe left outside for a few weeks until it started to rust. But they use the same techniques mentioned here. A lot of video without commentary, a lot of jump cuts, etc. Apparently it’s easier to just fake shit on the Internet and make money that way than to actually do stuff for real.


Heavy equipment will be considered primitive technology centuries from now. Perhaps they’re just getting ahead of the game? . /s


I think this video is a satire of that genre but these days it’s hard to be entirely sure…


I can see how even touching non-primitive assistance poisons the well; but if certain rules are adhered to I can see heavy equipment being no more illegitimate than heavily cut montage sequences when it comes to turning relatively arduous projects into bite-sized entertainment.

If, say, a project could not be reasonably realized without an excavator, or a bunch of precision-cut modern lumber and nails, or whatnot; that’s outright fraud; but I’m not sure why ‘excavator moves a bunch of dirt’ is any more of a cheat than ‘the camera moves away while our team moves a bunch of dirt’ if the subject is some primitive construction that was perfectly viable; if you had a village worth of labor willing to assist for a week.

I’m just guessing that a race to the bottom among me-to players in the grim content mines means that such a rule cannot be reliably assumed to have been followed; but(in principle) using a machine to do quickly and cheaply(because you are a small crew on a skeleton budget) something that we know a cooperative band of low tech people could have done with lots of hard manual labor doesn’t seem like it invalidates the premise.


As someone moving into a small house - I am contemplating moving shit into storage - though I really do not want to.

Anyone in the KC area want ~35 years of National Geographics?


One of the things I appreciate about John Plant’s videos is that he’s often pretty explicit about how much work is involved. It might have been one of his brickwork videos, for example, where he said (either in the subtitles or the YouTube blurb) that the entire project took upwards of 6 months of weekends to complete.


Providing that background seems absolutely essential for anything not intended as pure cotton-candy-content; and I can definitely respect someone who stubbornly DIYs their way through the whole thing as part of the exercise, which it sounds like he does; I’d just argue that the line between ‘elision for brevity’ and ‘outright misrepresentation’ would, if you aren’t a purist, allow the substitution of machines for human labor so long as it’s demonstrable that sufficient human labor would be plausibly available under the conditions being simulated (just because It Took a Village it doesn’t seem necessary to exclude any youtubers who don’t have a village worth of collaborators willing to spend a month doing rammed earth construction or whatever it happens to be; though the ones who stick to 100% purist definitely score extra points)

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Next week they’ll be showing how to use primitive SaranWrap to make shelters…


The only thing missing from that video was the sand blasting chamber. Other than that…perfection. Assuming it’s satire. If not…well that makes it even better, I think. I lost it when he brought out the primer. Thank God I was alone so I didn’t have to explain what I was laughing at.


Also, too: “House Hunters International” is fake. This was a modest disappointment to me.


All House Hunters shows are fake-ish. I actually know a couple who were on House Hunters: Off the Grid. They had actually already purchased their land and started to build their home when they were picked to be on the show. The other two houses/properties they looked at were just completely staged for the narrative the episode wanted to tell. In fact, they never even considered any other properties or doing anything other than building their own home. They already knew of the property when they decided they wanted to build a house themselves. So everything on the show that showed them looking at other options, and discussing their choice over dinner and drinks was entirely scripted.


regardless that is pretty cool!

To a certain extent, yeah, but the problem is that if you know from the start you will have mechanical assistance it changes the whole ethos of the project. If you’re digging a hole with your hands and every single cubic foot costs an hour of effort and daylight and calories, then you will think very carefully about each of those cubic feet. The hole you make will respond organically to soil conditions and roots and stones, in a way that doesn’t happen if you can just rip out whatever volume you spent 5 minutes thinking about. The things you would be ignoring are the exact things that make the primitive approach interesting.

It’s like, jersey fabric is just knitting, which people have known how to do for millenia. If ancient Egyptians chose to make such a fine knit fabric by hand, it would be as precious as silk brocade, so they would only do it for the most luxurious articles. But we use this fabric (made by machines) for disposable underwear and t-shirts – the difference in labor content makes the end result totally different even though it is physically identical.

And even that is probably wildly overestimating the rigor of these fake primitive channels. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re using silicone sealants and steel beams and stuff anywhere the camera can’t see it.


I think I fell for this one that I watched just yesterday. I was suspicious about all the really good camera work, with so many different angles, that there might be a “team” there but she works with such intent I concluded it was probably real. Either way, she did a lot of work and it isn’t such a huge job–it’s at least plausible that she could do it solo if necessary, no swimming pools or concrete work. So in this case even if they “sped things up” with a crew it’s still not completely “fake”. I do kind of doubt she actually “lives off the grid” though.

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Did I miss it? Where is the exhaust for that underground bbq? I see there is a YT thumbnail where smoke is coming from the mound, but I didn’t see where/how it was constructed.

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NatGeo mag collectors forum:

There may well be people in your area.

From the publishers of NatGeo, this is useful:



Art teachers, esp. those teaching K-6, usually welcome these magazines for student collage projects.

Libraries these days are hit-or-miss on physical copies of NatGeo, at least here in Texas. It doesn’t hurt to ask 'em, if you have some libraries near you.