Blog posts


MAKE-IT presentation at the 8th European Innovation Summit (European Parliament)

14-16 November 2016 was the 8th European Innovation Summit, held at the European Parliament. The MAKE-IT project was involved in the session on ‘The effect of Digitisation on Society’. I joined a panel including MEP Michal Boni: I discussed the Maker movement and how grassroots initiatives can offer a viable alternative to the corporate economic model for our digital society, based on social innovation and the circular economy. Here is my presentation:

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MAKE-IT talk at Maker Faire Rome 2016

Several members of the MAKE-IT consortium recently participated at Maker Faire Rome 2016, the largest Maker Faire in Europe since 2013 (you can check the 2015 edition or see videos from the 2013, 2014 and 2015 editions). We had several meetings and activities during Maker Faire Rome 2016, and we will publish more blog posts and contents in the next weeks. For example, last week we already had a blog post by David Langley with his first impressions regarding the Maker Faire Rome 2016.

In this blog post, we publish the slides and video from a talk that we gave in order to present and discuss the MAKE-IT with makers and other visitors: MAKE-IT: a project for understanding and experimenting online platforms for the governance of Maker communities.

This talk, shared by several partners of the MAKE-IT project (and not just me, I only presented MAKE-IT in the first part), presented the project, its plan, the planned outcomes and processes and discussed it with the audience. Among the participants in the discussion we had Sherry Lassiter from the Fab Foundation, and Fiorenza Lipparini from PlusValue.

Here you can access the presentation file:

And here’s a recording of the whole discussion:

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A MAKE-IT workshop in Vienna

The MAKE-IT project studies how 10 different maker initiatives use “collective awareness platforms” – a range of digital services and applications to enhance many forms of awareness. We want to understand how the makers organize themselves, collaborate together and how they create value. Both societal value and value enabling the maker initiatives themselves to be sustainable.

On December 1st, we will present some of our ‘hot off the press’ findings and discuss together what the implications are. We also want to collect input, identify new trends and hot topics. So expect the workshop to be interactive; we want your input!

Anyone interested in the Maker Movement is welcome: makers, DIY fans, researchers, communicators, students, etc. The workshop is free of charge.

Please register at: [email protected]

Date: December 1st 2016, 13:00 – 17:00h

Location: Universität für Angewandte Kunst Wien, Vordere Zollamtstrasse 3, 1030 Vienna, Seminarraum 21 a/b

The Maker Movement comes in many shapes and sizes: Insights into Europe’s Maker Scene

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Thousands of independent inventors, with one blind spot

Recently, I was lucky enough to visit the Maker Faire Rome. With over 110,000 participants, Europe’s largest meeting for citizens who want to make innovative new things. Thousands of independent inventors showed their ideas to thousands more wannabe inventors. On one of the days access was exclusively for children, to inspire the next generation of inventors. Altogether, very fascinating!

It occurred to me that there was a lot of undiscovered talent there in the huge hangars, just outside the Italian capital city. There was no shortage of scintillating ideas. Many of them made use of the newest technologies for making prototypes, to which large organisations no long have sole access: 3D printers, lasers that melt powder in highly accurate forms, or that cut out shapes from all sorts of materials. And mini-computers, such as Arduino, that control many inventions and instil them with smart characteristics.

Whilst walking around, I chatted to a couple who had developed a smart city solution for car sharing. The system registers who uses which car and the costs are automatically settled. A pilot in Cagliari is well on its way. I ate “food of the future”, where algae and insects were incorporated into a range of surprisingly edible foods. There was a design for a computer with unlimited computational power, a hyper-efficient electromotor, drones to measure air quality, an enormous printer to squeeze mud and straw into the shape of houses, all sorts of robots and much, much more.

Maker Faire Rome 2016

Professor Neil Gershenfeld, director of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms and one of the creators of the Fab Lab concept, awarded the main prize to a couple of students. Francesco Pezzuoli and Dario Corona had invented a smart glove that registers sign language movements and translates them, via a smartphone, into speech. This can reduce the gap between those with hearing impairments and the rest of the population.

So why did I have the feeling that all this talent was, as yet, undiscovered? To begin with: it seems that the makers themselves do not fully realize that – besides having a brilliant idea – a lot more is needed to bring a desirable and successful product to market. They seem to be preoccupied with their own technical solution. But I found many of their answers to my questions regarding their business plans to be weak. Because of this, I fear that many encouraging projects will fail unnecessarily.

Most makers subscribe to the ideas behind the open source movement and most ideas are directly related to creating a better world, for disadvantaged people, for the environment or in other ways. They have an allergy to being “commercial”. Commendable perhaps? But, at the same time it is somewhat strange: Because makers also crave financial stability and a healthy future perspective for their brainchildren.

Maker Faire Rome 2016

The thing that occurred to me above all, was that the visitors to the stands were hardly encouraged to contribute at all. Those guests walked around full of interest, with their own opinions, judgments and additional ideas. I saw them being quite impressed with the various projects and they enjoyed discussing things with the makers. But, the other way around, the technically oriented makers seemed to have a blind spot for the potential contribution of the visitors. After seeing what a project was all about, the visitors generally just walked away without there being any lasting connection. Unless they remember to go online once they get home and search out the maker projects they liked the best.

I believe that the interested public can do much more than just listen: they can sign up to take part as guinea pigs for prototypes and pilot tests. They can share their ideas for application areas and user situations. They can offer their experience and knowledge of, for example, marketing and commercialization.

Apart from some notable exceptions, most maker projects do not achieve large scale penetration in practice. For some, that is not the intention. Other ideas may just not be good enough. But I believe that too often this is because the makers try and do everything themselves. Whilst their strength often lies in the technology and not in other equally important areas. Why do they not endeavour to build a community around their project from the well-intentioned visitors to their stands? Why do they not see the benefit of increasing the reservoir of available knowledge and talent which they could make use of in making their project sustainably successful?

Maker Faire Rome 2016

All in all, the vibrant Maker Faire Rome showed me something highly encouraging: Through access to advanced production technologies an enormous potential for innovation is being awakened within the citizen population. Should large-scale production firms, such as those making consumer electronics, consumables and chemical products, fear a new wave of competition? Well, I actually see the makers as representing a new opportunity for these firms. New forms of collaboration between incumbents and these hobbyists and free spirits have not been well explored. By understanding the makers’ motivations and by offering them resources, new win-win situations could regularly be achieved.

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MAKE-IT research discussed at Innovative Citizen Festival, Dortmund

On 15th September in Dortmund/Germany, I introduced the MAKE-IT project at Dortmund’s “innovative citizen” festival (http://www.innovative-citizen.de/). Within my input I described the broad variety of different types of Maker spaces through Europe as identified in MAKE-IT‘s case studies and contributed to a scenario for the use of open workshops in Germany in 2030.

Dortmund’s “innovative citizen” festival (“festival for democratic use of technology”, http://www.innovative-citizen.de/) for the fourth time attracted Makers, social innovators, urban gardeners, urban gamers, activists for an insect based nutrition, civil servants and many other activists at the border of democracy, technology and sustainability. It hosts workshops, discussions, presentations, urban games, a festival cinema and room for exchange and community building.

Together with MAKE-IT case study partner Jürgen Bertling from Dortmund’s Maker space Dezentrale (https://www.facebook.com/DezentraleDortmund ) I discussed in a workshop on “potentials of open workshops and fab labs for a sustainable society”. Jürgen Bertling introduced three scenarios for the spread of open workshops and Fab Labs in Germany – projecting actual numbers and concepts of open workshops to the year 2030. I introduced recent findings from MAKEI-T’s running empirical work:

“We found a broad variety of organizational, paedagogical or technical concepts of Fab Labs in Europe […] And we think that Maker spaces could be understand by looking at their organization and governance, peer and collaborative behaviors and value creation and impact”.

I also pointed out that Maker spaces do not act in an empty space, but should position themselves to existing spaces such as libraries, open workshops, museums or cultural centres. The workshop participants agreed that spread and impact of the DIY and sustainability movement is strongly connected to their connectedness to other communities and actors.

The participants represented various stakeholders such a universities, research organisations, municipalities, libraries, for-profit and not-for-profit Fab Labs and grassroots organisations from all over Germany.

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Welcome to the MAKE-IT website

MAKE-IT: website v0.1
MAKE-IT: website v0.1.

The Maker movement is connecting citizens and professionals with digital manufacturing and communication technologies like 3D printers, laser cutters and online community platforms. As a result, virtual bits can be shared globally and turned into physical objects or atoms locally.

How can Maker communities achieve sustainability and organize themselves? What do Maker participants do, and how do they behave? What value do they create, and how does this benefit society? How can we help their governance, their impact and sustainability?

MAKE-IT is a Horizon 2020 European research project focused on how the role of Collective Awareness Platforms (CAPS) enables the growth and governance of the Maker movement, particularly in relation to Information Technology, using and creating social innovations and achieving sustainability.

The MAKE-IT project started in January 2016 and will last until December 2017; its process is documented on the Process page and the partners involved in it are described in the Consortium page. A first, simple, one-page website was launched in March 2016 (v0.1), and a new version has been just launched now (v0.2): this website will be improved in the following months, so please register to our newsletter in order to learn when new content or features will be available online. For example:

MAKE-IT website v0.2
MAKE-IT: website v0.2.

Since the website will be updated regularly, you will see this note on several pages, which will be removed once their content has been finalized:

Note The MAKE-IT project started in January 2016 and is currently active; this website will be improved in the following months, please register to our newsletter in order to learn when new content or features will be available online.

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