The uptake of the Maker Movement – mainstreaming “making” through public institutions

On 21st June, MAKE-IT researchers David Langley, Bastian Pelka and Janosch Sbeih discussed preliminary findings of MAKE-IT’s research with experts from research and active makers from the consortium. The objective of the workshop was to gather qualitative comments on the future development of the Maker movement. Base of their discussion were three scenarios. They are illustrating different pathways of the future development of the Maker movement and the use of maker technologies within society. These scenarios had been developed by TUDO from the results of all MAKE-IT workpackages. Read what the workshop produced as feedback on the following scenario:

“Scenario 1: The Maker movement assumes cultural roles and shapes public institutions”

Within this scenario, the Maker movement is absorbed by public learning spaces. Schools, libraries, museums and other publicly financed spaces are installing makerspaces where visitors can use digital fabrication tools and methodologies. There is a societal uptake of the “making” attitude, but this is influenced by attitudes, objectives and rules from the public spaces. “Making” is understood as an aspect of cultural techniques.

The following “Leitmotive” are describing the scenario:

  1. There is a “Clash of cultures” between the makerspace culture and the culture of public spaces. There will be confrontation and mutual co-development.
  2. A separation/specialization can be observed: different makerspaces are specializing by coupling with different local public learning spaces.
  3. Transformation (of both): makerspaces heritage rules, codes and hierarchies from public spaces. Public spaces are opening and flexibilising
  4. Makerspaces in public spaces are following an “educational” and/or ”arts” approach – they are used for learning or pursuing arts. The design of pre-market models and research for patents are not on top of the agenda.
  5. The uptake of makerspaces in hundred thousands of public spaces in the European Union leads to a wide diffusion of maker approaches and attitudes; though, these are conflicting with approaches, objectives and attitudes of the public spaces they are housed in. Mainstreaming of the Maker movement comes with changes of the movement.

These “Leitmotive” were introduced as aspects of the scenario. These are the results of the discussion of this scenario:

Mutual benefits for cooperation between makerspaces and public spaces

There is no argument against the trajectory of this scenario. All participants are seeing this scenario as already rooted in recent developments and as a possible future scenario.

There are several arguments that see positive aspects in this scenario both for the existing public spaces and the makerspaces. Firstly, makerspaces could profit from such a “marriage” by the assets that public spaces could bring in:

  • Many schools, libraries and museums have space at their disposal – and space is something that especially makerspaces in big cities are lacking. If public spaces would open own makerspaces, this would ease the problem of missing rooms.
  • Public institutions have long rooted experience in attracting people to their rooms. Makers could profit from this if they want to attract more visitors.
  • Public institutions have a high visibility that could support the Maker movement in reaching out to people that have no contact to makerspaces at the moment.
  • Public institutions hold an existing infrastructure and connect to existing communities. Both could support a widening of the Maker movement.

On the other sides, the Maker movement could support public spaces with certain assets:

  • The maker pedagogy is new, attractive and inspiring and can attract new visitors to public spaces.
  • Making as an attitude could innovate public institutions and widen their impact, attractiveness and target groups.

Barriers to cooperation

While there are many arguments for such a “marriage” of public spaces and makerspaces, the participants pointed to barriers that might make this scenario become unlikely. These are:

  • This cooperation needs a shift of mindsets on both sides: Public spaces need to open up for the ideas and approaches of makers; makers need to find arrangements with the restrictions that public spaces have. This process needs mutual learning.
  • The trajectory “from niche to mainstream” will change the Maker movement. The movement and individual makers and communities will need to discuss changes and “red lines”. The question will arise: “When is the Maker movement still a movement?”
  • A general barrier is inertia to change within existing institutions. The scenario will not happen within a few years and this process seems not to fit to the maker idea of rapid change.

How to make it happen

A final round of debates was dedicated to recommendations for making this scenario happen. What would the participants suggest that different actors should do in order to support this scenario?

  • Local communities should be included in any process stemming from local public institutions and makerspaces. The participation and support of local people is crucial and should take place at the start of these developments.
  • Public spaces are run by public servants. Any cooperation between makers and public servants should build on the most motivated staff on both sides, building on the shared aim of “reaching out to people”.
  • Makerspaces are not necessarily accessible for all people. This is an aspect to invest in. Many public spaces are following accessibility rules and have experience in creating environments that attract marginalised or vulnerable people.

Leave a Reply

Notify of