Have you ever felt the need to build a specialized gadget to help you around the house? A vegetable chopper that counts how many carrots you’ve sliced so far? Including a gyroscope to make sure every piece is equal in size and shape?
If the answer to the above is a curious “yes”, then you could be a maker in the making!
Maker culture is a technology-based expansion upon the traditional “do it yourself” (DIY) culture. Using a wide range of materials and techniques, makers solve problems without resorting to paid experts. These problems can range from everyday difficulties to more ambitious creations. All done with your own hands, your own earned expertise, and a bit of hard work.
Becoming a maker
While there’s a focus on the technical aspects, being a maker is not only about being an inventor. Sure, you’ll be working on an invention, on your own personal project. But the sentiment associated with the practice is much broader.
According to Adam Savage, all human beings are makers: “Humans do two things that make us unique from all other animals; we use tools and we tell stories. And when you make something, you’re doing both at once.”
So, as long as you have your story in mind and you’re open to finding a way to tell it to others, there’s no limit to what you can achieve.
What about hackers?
Makers and hackers are similar because of the principles they follow. Both believe in open sharing, peer production, and extreme tinkering.
While they share a mindset, the objectives are different. Hackers operate in the realm of computer systems and electronics, exploiting them to gain unauthorized access and control. Black-hat hackers are out to “own” their targets for malicious purposes; ethical hackers try to find vulnerabilities and help security teams protect data.
Makers often use computer systems and electronics, along with open-source hardware and software. But they also use other techniques, such as:
- traditional arts and crafts;
- woodworking, metalworking, and other raw-material transformation processes;
- 3D printing;
Different types of making
We’ve named above some techniques you can use in making. What you decide to use, however, is a unique selection based on what you can do and the nature of your creation.
The philosophy behind making is to gather the tools and the information you need to realize your vision. In this aspect, the makerspace that you join (more on that in a second) can affect your work process. Depending on the tools available and the experts you meet, your choice of techniques can vary.
What is a Makerspace? How many are there?
A makerspace is a place where makers meet, share ideas, and advance their projects. Some are embedded within hackerspaces (the same concept, for hackers); others exist within Fab Labs where there’s a greater focus on machinery and advanced tools. You can also find other spaces named “incubators” and “accelerators”, where communities of makers work and develop ideas together.
According to a report from the National League of Cities 2016 report, there are an estimated 2000 makerspaces around the world.
The best ones have:
- a lot of space;
- plenty of tools;
- an engaged community (not only within, but also with other local organizations);
- some members with great technical abilities;
- a clear set of rules to keep everything flowing;
A short history of making and the maker movement
The term “do it yourself” has been in use since the 1950s. It includes all activities that “engage raw and semi-raw materials and parts to produce, transform, or reconstruct material possessions, including those drawn from the natural environment” (Wolf & McQuitty, 2011). Making appears as an evolution of this term, bringing technology into the mix.
The origin of the maker movement is tied to Dale Dougherty, inventor of the Maker Faire in 2006 and founder of the Make magazine. His initiative got the attention of the then-US president Barack Obama. An edition of the faire was held at the White House in 2014. From that point on, the visibility of the movement and the funding granted to makerspaces has risen.
There are approximately 135 million adult makers in the United States today.
The Importance of Being a Maker
The 21st century has shown the importance of innovation and creativity as the main forces for development and change.
In addition to creativity, makers develop attitudes of openness, resourcefulness and connection with others. These qualities are in high demand today, both economically and socially.
Makerspaces could be the place where new technologies and innovations are born. Ian Cole compares the rise of maker culture with the personal computer revolution of the 1970s. He stresses that companies like Apple and Microsoft started in garages.
But don’t forget the fun as you explore another possibility, talk to people, and learn something new! Nothing beats the moment when, after days of tinkering, a creation finally comes to life, spreading wonder around the makerspace.
Want to get started?
OEDb has compiled a series of resources to get you started with all aspects of maker culture, from expanded definitions, through publications, to guides on 3D printing. You can visit it by clicking here.