The Maker Movement


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This article written by Payal Shah, was published in issue 06 of Social Technology Quarterly.
Summary: The DIY movement has come to encompass broader skill sets, defining a whole new philosophy and appreciation of self-sustaining forms of living.

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The Maker Movement

  1. 1. KulizaDo you remember the heavy metal bandAnthrax? The lead guitarist Dan Spitzleft in 1995 because he was “severelydisinterested in playing the guitar”. He isnow a watchmaker, and claims that it is anunending skill to learn. Antonio Banderas, SirCliff Richard, and Sting all make their ownwine. Even US President Obama makes hisown beer, the Whitehouse Brew. Well, heinstructs and pays for it at the least.There are plenty of regular people who growfruits and vegetables on their own, raisechickens, and keep their own bees. Othersare buying them from farmers’ marketsinstead of supermarkets. Some have evenmade it their business: The Mast Brotherscraft delicate chocolate by hand and Makersand Brothers sell beautifully designed objectsfor everyday use.Even education is becoming DIY. Onlinewebsites such as Coursera, Duo-Lingo,Khan Academy, and Audacity offer freecourses. ‘Classes’ are online videos ormultiple-choice questions. Discussions,tests, and assessments ensue. Certificatesare sometimes awarded; other learninghappens for the purpose of learning itself.Mike Doherty, in his article, ‘The Story Behindthe Stuff: Consumers’ Growing Interest in‘Real’ Products’, says “There is a powerfulurge to get in touch with what they believeis a more ‘real’ world, and it’s leading usto a place where signs of realness take ongreater value”. He thinks that this movementis bigger and more lasting than the usualtrend and counter-trend shifts that wesee. He also mentions Melanie Howard’sFuture Foundation reports that indicatethat many consumers are also seeking the“simplification of complexity which is aboutthe urge people feel to get in touch with whatthey believe to be a more real world.”Doherty gives the example of IcebreakerMerino Garments that come with a ‘baacode’CommunitiesThe MakerMovementThe DIY movement has come to encompass broaderskill sets, defining a whole new philosophy andappreciation of self-sustaining forms of Payal Shah
  2. 2. Social Technology Quarterly 06to allow customers to trace the merinowool in their garment back to its source inNew Zealand. Customers can see how thesheep live, read about their growers, andfollow production through to the finishedgarment. Similarly, wooden cutting boardsfrom Banbury are proving very popular inIreland. Each cutting board has a numberthat customers can enter into the website toget a full history of the tree that the cuttingboard is made from, where it grew, what theenvironment was, and how many other cuttingboards were made out of the same tree.We live in a world of the instant. There ismore ready-made, processed food in oursupermarkets than fresh food. Fresh foodtakes work. Factories do that work for us;from coffee to pre-cooked vegetables,almost anything can be bought ready-to-consume. In the 1960s, everything startedbecoming instant. Women were slowlystarting to enter workplaces and this leftthem with less time to spend on planning anddoing household chores and cooking. Timebecame scarce. This meant that the easierand less time consuming something was,the better. Thus began the advent of instantfood. But in a world of manufactured clonesand standardisation, quirky, handmade andexclusive is good. Slowly, instead of justaccepting ready things, we take the time tounderstand where things come from and howthey become what they are.The DIY movement is an adverse reactionto the instant movement, a sort of a reverseconsumerism. People have become tired ofbuying the same old mass produced goodsmanufactured by corporates giants. Themovement started small in the early 1980sin England, influenced by the DIY philosophyof the punk movement. Its popularity rose inresponse to economic downturns, such asduring the early 1990s. The volatile economyof the subprime crisis has accelerated themovement by urging, if not forcing, peopleinto being more frugal and self-sustaining.It also acts as a rejection of the mass-consumption of the boom years in the 2000s.People have become more interested in howto do things themselves, understand whereTop: Mast Brothers ChocolateAbove: Merino Garments
  3. 3. Kulizafood and materials come from, their impact onthe planet, and produce products to a higherquality than large conglomerates do, even ifit is at a smaller scale. They end up beingbetter designed, unique, and more personal.People are unmistakably innovating andevolving personally with the thought: “if I doit, I will do it better”. Is it a small attempt tocontrol our lives and the exact way we wantthem, and not controlled by consumerism.People take pride in understanding howproducts work, crafting them from scratch,and knowing that their development isunder their control, even though thereis so much else in life that is out of theircontrol. This is a shift to a more holisticlifestyle that provides some meaning.Doherty opines that gardening and knitting,as holistic activities, have been on the risefor the last ten years. People are seekingto create deeper and more meaningfulexperiences. This is why both online andoffline communities like Brooklyn Brainery,Kick Table (which has unfortunatelyclosed down) and Maker Faires work sowell. The image is almost that of reverseavant-gardism, yet is still avant-garde. Itis a dynamic culture that is going back tobasics, minimalism, and self-sufficiency.“Right now, we all crave authenticity” saysKurt Andersen in his article ‘You Say youwant a Devolution?’ in Vanity Fair. He talksabout how few things have changed in thelast 20 years - clothes, music, T.V. shows,architecture, hair styles. Everything has notevolved as it did decade after decade beforethe 1980s. He believes this is happeningas an “unconscious collective reaction toall the profound nonstop newness we’reexperiencing on the tech and geopoliticaland economic fronts.” As the world movestechnologically forward at lightening speedsand deals with changes of all kinds, we clingas hard as we can to familiar things so wehave control over something.ReferencesAndersen, Kurt. “You Say You Want aDevolution?.”Vanity Fair.Jan 2012.Doherty, Mike. “The Story Behind The Stuff:Consumers’ Growing Interest In “Real”Products.” Fast Company.18 Oct2012.Farrier, John.“The Lead Guitarist for AnthraxIs Now a MasterWatchmaker.” Neatorama. 07Sep 2012.Kass, Sam. “Ale to the Chief: White HouseBeer Recipe.” The White House Blog. TheWhite House,01 Sep 2012.Wright, John. “Barack Obama’s beer: WhiteHouse to brew house.”Word of Mouth Blog.The Guardian,24 Sep 2012.“Cheers! Celebs Who Make Their OwnWine!.” Posh24. N.p., 09 2011. Web. 20 Oct2012.
  4. 4. Social Technology Quarterly 06Right:‘I think therefore I am’by Barbera Kruger