MAKE-IT presents Sustainability Scenarios for the Maker Movement on the “XIX. Convention for Applied Social Sciences: Shaping Social Innovations Locally” in Dortmund, Germany

From 9th to 11th June the Association of German Sociologists met with further partner institutions from the applied social sciences at the Social Research Centre Dortmund (sfs) for the XIX. Convention for Applied Social Sciences under the theme of “Shaping Social Innovations Locally”. The topic of local social innovations received appropriate attention in its diversity with a programme that encompassed 13 forums, two tutorials and ca. 130 participants.

My colleagues Marthe Zirngiebl, Janosch Sbeih and I presented after an introduction into the social innovations of the Maker movement (providing digital fabrication technologies in public spaces and sharing digital product designs freely online for reproduction by others) three possible scenarios for the future of the Maker movement. The scenarios represent the development pathways of the Maker movement, depending on whether it collaborates more strongly with public institutions like schools, libraries and museums to diffuse “making” as a cultural practices into the mainstream; or whether it cooperates with private enterprises from the established industry to harness the economic potentials of the maker technologies and processes; or whether it sustains itself through civil society and proliferates the sharing of open source designs for products that are free to be reproduced by anybody.

The participants of the MAKE-IT workshop commented on the importance of the spaces in which the maker initiatives will be housed. Depending on the orientation of the partner institution (e.g. public institution or private enterprise), the maker initiative will change and adapt itself, which also raises the question in how far the defence of “free” spaces plays a role in the Maker movement. Furthermore, cash flows are important indicators to notice in which direction the movement orients itself at the moment. Finally, a comment was made that also a fourth scenario is feasible in which new business models arising out of the Maker movement could lead to a creative disruption of the economy.

The points made in the discussion will be further processed in the scenario work of the MAKE-IT project and will be published in its final reports at the end of this year.

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