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The Maker Movement: An Industrialist Legacy

The Maker Movement is an informal, umbrella term referring to an emerging subculture arising from grassroots networks through a shared interest in collective or collaborative tinkering on creative and technical projects. Broadly, the Maker Movement is propelled by a culture of making and “hacking” that favors democratic and meritocratic conventions to organized production. It encourages bottom-up organizational practices that seek to foster open and social learning. The culture of making is typically associated with design thinking as its methodology guides human-centered solutions and iterative processes (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2014; Sayers, 2017). Dale Dougherty, founder of Make: magazine—one of the core media outlets promoting the Maker Movement—and creator of Maker Faire, described the Maker Movement as follows,

When I talk about the maker movement, I make an effort to stay away from the word “inventor”—most people just don’t identify themselves that way. “Maker,” on the other hand, describes each one of us, no matter how we live our lives or what our goals might be.

(Dougherty, 2012, p. It)

On a more tangible level, the Maker Movement can be recognized by the rapidprototyping tools and methods it employs. Make: magazine defines the Maker Movement as a “combination of ingenious makers and innovative technologies such as the Arduino microcontroller and personal 3D printing [that] are driving innovation in manufacturing, engineering, industrial design, hardware technology and education” (n.d.). Besides the technologies that support making, the Maker Movement can also be characterized by collective organizations that maintain workshops for projects involving welding, metal or woodwork, and electronic circuit design and programming. These physical spaces are fondly known as digital fabrication labs (or fablabs), techshops, hackerspaces, or more generally makerspaces. Each of these space classifications has their own unique emphasis.

Fablabs are popularized by the Stanford University Graduate School of Education’s FabLearn program and the MIT’s Fab Foundation (https://fabfoundation. org/). Fablabs emphasize learning through research and invention. Techshops, popularized by the enterprise chain TechShop, are typically membership-based community studios equipped with industrial tools for fabrication. While fablabs and techshops are more structured by their US-based organizational philosophies, hackerspaces trace their origin to the European hacker culture. Hacker- space members usually tell a story of when their “founding leaders,” a group of

North American computer programmers visited Germany’s Chaos Computer Club in 1997 (Maxigas, 2012) and grew excited about creating similar spaces in the US. Semiotic disputes over the terms hackers and hacking have not stopped hackerspace users to stand firm on their theoretical perspective. Today, hacking typically refers to creative ways to work around everyday life issues. Terms like “lifehacks,” “schoolhacks,” and “gradhacks” (specific to graduate students) were grown out of this tradition.

Makerspace, however, tends to describe an open workspace dedicated to maker culture practices. Makerspace is a term coined by Make: magazine when it was launched in 2005. It became further popularized when Dougherty registered in 2011 and started using the term to refer to open-access spaces for designing and creating (Cavalcanti, 2013). Within academic settings, schools, libraries, and universities tend to call their design and production spaces maker- spaces given the neutrality in the name. Educause (2013) identifies a makerspace as “a physical location where people gather to share resources and knowledge, work on projects, network, and build” (n.p.). One of the most popular academic makerspaces, the Vassar College makerspace, defined their facilities as spaces that

combine manufacturing equipment, community, and education for the purposes of enabling community members to design, prototype and create manufactured works that wouldn’t be possible to create with the resources available to individuals working alone. These spaces can take the form of loosely-organized individuals sharing space and tools, for-profit companies, non-profit corporations, organizations affiliated with or hosted within schools, universities or libraries, and more.

("What is a makerspace,” 2015, n.p.)

The term academic makerspaces is increasingly used to specify a distinguishable field dedicated to studying makerspaces in higher education contexts.

The influence of the Maker Movement in the academy is evident in the growing development of makerspaces in colleges and universities across the United States. To share resources and address makerspace-related problems collabora- tively, leading institutions including Yale University, Stanford University, Carnegie Mellon University, MIT, and others have joined forces to form the Higher Education Makerspaces Initiative (HEMI). Since 2016, HEMI has been responsible for convening the annual International Symposium on Academic Makerspaces (ISAM), a conference that brings together makerspace managers and researchers from around the world to identify and address emerging issues around academic makerspaces. These issues span from technical design (i.e., how to track user traffic in a makerspace) to pedagogical implications (i.e., what kind of curriculum might be created around making).

Certainly, the Maker Movement did not just begin a few years ago; its roots are connected to industrialism and mass manufacture. According to historians

Elizabeth Cumming and Wendy Kaplan (1991), designers and labor theorists in Victorian England have created an early reaction to industrialization. They have sought to value individualism and creativity amid a time of profits and mass- market capitalism. New media scholar Chet Breaux (2017) noted that art critic John Ruskin was another important figure in the movement that publicly called for organic design and production and the end of the machine-driven model of Victorian production. By the 1890s, as Cumming and Kaplan documented, there had been several large craft shows that occurred throughout England, marking the golden age of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

In their book, Adhocism, architects Charles Jencks and Nathan Silver (2013) reported that the Arts and Crafts Movement suffered a visible decline following the First World War. This has led to the rise of the ad hoc DIY practice in the 1920s, a new method of assembling using readily available components and tools. Jencks and Silver suggested that doing-it-yourself is “the rebirth of a democratic mode and style, where everyone can create his personal environment out of impersonal subsystems, whether they are new or old, modern or antique. By realizing his immediate needs, by combining ad hoc parts, the individual creates, sustains and transcends himself” (p. 15). For Jencks and Silver, this form of creative and self-powered assemblage is a way of resisting the “omnipresent delays caused by specialization and bureaucracy” (p. 19). It resembles a postmodern viewing of a pluralist world containing multiple ideologies—fragmented, but can be reassembled as necessary, yet not always cohesive. Jencks and Silver also pointed to the counterculture movement coinciding with industrial and cultural forces as the roots of DIY culture. Particularly, the emphasis on reusing or repurposing industrial excess serves a great example of adhocism at work (pp. 65-67).

In observing the effects of adhocism, American writer Evgeny Morozov (2014) noted in The New Yorker that although the Arts and Crafts Movement was deemed dead after the First World War, the sentiment behind it lingered. “It resurfaced in the counterculture of the nineteen-sixties, with its celebration of simplicity, its back-to-the-land sloganeering, and, especially, its endorsement of savvy consumerism as a form of political activism,” Morozov (2014, n.p.) wrote. Evidently, it wasn’t just for political purposes but business marketing as well. Morozov highlighted the corporate gimmicks organizations like Apple, Inc., Stanford’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and even MIT used to convince consumers that they were rebels. The hippie term “hackers” that stemmed from the European hacker culture became a slang for those who distinguished themselves from the rigid, unimaginative technocrats. Soon, the talk of “de-institutionalization of the society” with rising personal computing technologies became a slogan for self-proclaimed anticulture tech elites, many of whom were also subscribers of Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog, an American counterculture magazine that promoted self-sufficiency, DIY, and holism, circa 1968-1972 (Morozov, 2014). Brand’s counter-mainstream rhetoric is deeply ingrained into the culture of making today.

These historic movements and influences are important to establish the lineage of making. While maker practices did not emerge overnight, many developments and continued ideologies of crafting, self-assembling, and hacking demonstrate the persistence of these ideas. The Maker Movement traces its lineage to a tradition of artisanship, self-sufficiency, and the subsequent anticulture techno-enthusiasm. What differs the Maker Movement from its preceding history, however, is the infrastructure that allows makers to become truly makers—the well-equipped makerspaces and community of practice that celebrate DIY mindset and entrepreneurship. In the next section, I discuss the impact of these infrastructural elements—and culture—that fuel the Maker Movement.

While there were no specific events that led to the booming of the maker culture, the notion of making as an intentional, inventive, and innovative practice is popularized by narratives around emerging technological solutions and rapid prototyping as they are increasingly supported by affordable desktop manufacturing technologies like 3D printers. A common belief about the maker culture is that they are a computer-based, technology-enhanced extension of the DIY culture. In his book, The Maker Movement Manifesto, Mark Hatch (2013) describes how American culture perpetuates the maker culture:

Wars have been fought when the common people thought they were going to lose access to ownership of their own productive tools. So the first thing we must do is make. The do-it-yourself (DIY) home improvement industry in the United States is worth over S700 billion. The hobbyist segment is worth over $25 billion. The most valuable segment of the $700 billion DIY is the perpetual remodeler, specifically those who have enough money to let business professionals do the work for them, but don’t. You might know or even be one of these people. In your heart of hearts, you know you don’t really need to redo the bathroom, or certainly not the way you plan to do it, yourself. But you do it anyway. This is because there is more satisfaction in completing the remodel yourself.

(pp. 12-13)

Besides the “satisfaction” factor, schools and homes have continued to encourage making as a productive and desirable endeavor. The capitalist society has slowly moved from valuing originality to applauding different means of expression that involve modification, remix, and redistribution. In schools, students across all education levels are taught to discuss how they feel about the texts they encounter. They are usually asked to respond by composing syntheses of texts with their own reflections. At home, children are taught to build and fix. Parents give young children toys like those of my anecdote at the start of this chapter to encourage imaginative building. When they are older, teenagers are taught household maintenance, such as changing a lightbulb, fixing a leak, and building a shelf. These activities often add to or modify the existing design based on the purposes or constraints the makers are working with. Generally speaking, this modern culture subscribes to a belief in taking matters into one’s own hands—solving problems on their own. Such a culture, plus an increasingly affordable access to additive manufacturing technologies and fabrication tools, propels the maker culture in formal and informal education. To this end, literacy researcher Mike Rose (2014) drew a connection between the maker culture and the education systems:

We seem to have discovered the pleasures of working with our hands—or at least of using products that are handmade or manufactured on a small scale, artisanal, locally produced. ... In education, there is growing interest in making and “tinkering” to foster, in one organization’s words, “imagination, play, creativity, and learning.” As opposed to some anti-technology expressions of this hands-on spirit in the modern West, our era’s movement embraces technology—computers and digital media are as much a part of the Makers Movement as woodworking and quilting. The same holds for education, which wants to draw on young people’s involvement in computer technology and social media.

(2014, n.p.)

Per Rose’s observations, American education is not only already submerged in the maker culture but also in nurturing makers. In the context of the Maker Movement, a maker is a blanket name for creators, designers, developers, programmers, etc.—all those who go beyond just thinking about ideas into tinkering with different ways to materialize their ideas. Several characterizations' of makers set them apart from any creator. Makers embrace an entrepreneurial spirit that motivates them to pursue radical solutions and are biased toward actions. While they do not necessarily have to exert high energy' at all times, makers are often passionate about their ideas and that passion is reflected in their designed artifacts. Since collective work is a signature characteristic of the Maker Movement, makers often engage in sharing (ideas, tools, spaces) and collaborating with others.

When makers participate in shared events and collective invention, they form a network called a maker community. A common maker community is Make: Projects (, an online project space alongside Dougherty’s enterprise where makers share ideas, methods, tools, and directions for perfecting one another’s projects. Maker communities also manifest in the form of an in-person project showcase, called the Maker Faire. Maker Faires are locally organized events (similar to TEDx talks) where cities or counties work with the chief sponsor Make: magazine and local makerspaces to put together a series of showcases and competitions. According to the official Maker Faire website, these events are “an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors. All of these ‘makers’ come to Maker Faire to show what they have made and to share what they have learned” (“Maker Faire: A bit of history” n.d.). In the Twin Cities, for instance, the annual Minneapolis-St. Paul Mini Maker Faire has been held every summer at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds between 2014 and 2018. Makers or exhibitors can host a booth, give a presentation, lead a workshop or be a performer at the Maker Faire. In 2017, The Minneapolis-St. Paul faire featured an Education Day for 7th graders and teachers to try their hands at coding, flying a drone, screen printing, soldering and building their own projects. The Education Day was featured again in conjunction with the 2018 Maker Faire plus 1,000 free spots for students in schools that do not meet the $5-per-student threshold.

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