A central question to the MAKE-IT project is the Maker movements’ near and long-term potential to actually disrupt current production and consumption patterns. Of course, that is a multidimensional question whose complexity can’t be comprehensively reflected in a single sentence. Disruption is better understood as a process rather than an event, if it is to happen at a societal level. The process of disruption starts with becoming aware of a situation which is not satisfying anymore. However, this realisation will depend on persons’ position within the economical ecosystem. Incumbents of lucrative positions within the current system will likely oppose emerging solutions pointing at their shortcomings, often related to a lack of mature and robust implementations of otherwise progressive, forward-looking ideas such as fabricating and assembling products on-site and thereby avoiding shipping and related burdens for the environment. Similarly, there is an argument that making enables people to become more entrepreneurial and therefore create their own jobs, quasi employing themselves.
In both situations, we rely – among other things – on the idea of networks as empowering distribution mechanisms of either product knowledge (e.g. 3D models, materials and related parameters for desktop production) or ‘how-to’ knowledge (e.g. instructions, shared experiences and evaluations of alternative solutions). Hence, one of the ‘signs of disruptions’ is the emergence of large-scale networks empowering makers to share and comment their knowledge. In this posting, we want to more closely study the relationship between network dynamics, as reflected by their increasing membership and related network characteristics such as various centrality measures, the degree of members (often referred to as ‘connectivity’) or the largest sub-networks within a community.
The role of online platforms
By analysing existing online platforms such as thingiverse.com or instructables.com, we aim to contribute to a better understanding of collaboration and connectedness within the Maker community. Eventually, this will be of help when pursuing the realization of the movement’s real potential due to the identification of missing features or incentives that stop platforms from supporting desirable behaviours. Or, alternatively, we might realize that the existing platforms serve a distinctly different purpose and are therefore less suitable to support the larger picture of digital, social innovation as envisioned within large parts of the Maker movement.
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