Bringing maker culture to cultural organisations


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My keynote on 'Bringing maker culture to cultural organisations' for VALA2014 More background at and
Abstract: Should museums, libraries and archives be places for looking at old stuff other people have made, or could they also be places where new creations are inspired and made? If making - writing, designing, building - is the deepest level of engagement with heritage and culture, how can memory institutions avoid the comforting but deadly trap of broadcasting at the public and instead create spaces for curating, creating or conversing with them?

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  • Hi, my name is Mia, and I like making things.Abstract:Should museums, libraries and archives be places for looking at old stuff other people have made, or could they also be places where new creations are inspired and made? If making - writing, designing, building - is the deepest level of engagement with heritage and culture, how can memory institutions avoid the comforting but deadly trap of broadcasting at the public and instead create spaces for curating, creating or conversing with them?Image: Garrett Mace CC-BY-NC-SA
  • It's the morning after the conference dinner so I'm going to go easy on you and give you my opinion up-front...
  • It's the morning after the conference dinner so I'm going to go easy on you and give you my opinion up-front...
  • We're used to the idea that people write novels and scholarly works in libraries...
  • What do you need to know about maker culture? We'll look at some examples, use them to think about the remaining question - is making - writing, designing, building - might be the deepest level of engagement with heritage and cultureImage: Mitch Altman under
  • Will share some examples of the kinds of things people are making; think about how some of it requires deep engagement with heritage and culture; think more broadly about the value in making, then some thoughts on creating maker spaces and why you should try making.
  • 'Maker' has become a bit of a brand - there's a magazine, MAKE, and events like Maker Faires...
  • root 'maker culture' is an attitude. It means being hands on, 'doing it yourself' - get stuck into printing, coding, fixing, baking, gardening, building your shed or just tinkering around in one. Hands up if you tried out experiments or projects at home after watching the Curiosity Show? Television shows like the Curiosity Show (1972 to 1990), with practical demonstrations of scientific principles that kids could do at home... Good practice for basic craft skills, looking at things around the house with new eyes... It's possible that the Curiosity Show inspired a generation of makersFind out more Image:
  • Regardless of your generation, you probably grew up making... Knitting, macramé, home electronics, home baking, gardening... DIY anything. Images from
  • Not the scary NSA or virus kind... People setting themselves challenges, trying to solve them as quickly and elegantly as possible. Failing that, hacking a solution together... Setting aside time and space for tinkering.
  • Maker spaces come in different flavours but it's the same basic deal. A space with equipment - printers, audio-visual, crafty things, software - that might also offer events, training...Images: Pargon Bill Ward Lester Public Library
  • In an era when the average drill is used for just 12 minutes in its entire lifespan, there's a lot to be said for sharing more.Image:
  • Not a snob about it - as long as it's hands on or creative. Lots of different ways of making; might include 'social media curation', photography, designing or writing computer applications, doing family trees, knitting... Creating new things, fixing or tailoring old ones. Creative, fun, learning or mastering skills. Could be for stimulation or relaxation...
  • A fairly random rapid-firelist
  • The old fashioned way... But required access to equipment, space; specialist skills; time...Image: Library of Congress
  • 'Sing-a-long-a Sound of Music started at the Prince Charles Cinema in August 1999'. Communal, fun, creative activities around it...Image:
  • Image: Maury McCown
  • If you make a cake from a packet mix, does that count? An open question - where are the boundaries of 'making'?
  • People have always collected. If I was Gene Tan I'd ask you to turn to your neighbour and talk about the first things you can remember collecting...Image: vickisee.com
  • Now they can do it on Tumblr, Pinterest, etc. DigitalNZ sets, Google Art Project galleries, etc - and they don't need to own the object itself.Image: DigitalNZ set from
  • When does social media 'conversation' turn into 'making'? Interesting but probably quite crude view; 'Creators' as people who 'write blogs and articles, upload self-created video and music, post photos, and maintain their own web pages'. ReinekeReitsma on the Data Insights Professionals Blog on October 12, 2012Source: Forrester Check out local markets in
  • Show the camera the marker in a book, get an animation that moves around. Augmented reality might eventually be cool but is it just another form of broadcast? We're consuming, not making.
  • A more creative way of interfering with the visual environment - yarn bombing as analogue augmented reality? Graffiti or guerilla knitting...
  • Knitting can also be a form of engagement with history. Knitters on Ravelry sharing old knitting patterns found in Trove.
  • I want to make a case for crowdsourcing as a form of making. Crowdsourcing is online collaboration with an open group of people usually contributing through small tasks - 'micro tasks' like transcribing text, correcting OCR errors, tagging or labelling items - but sometimes through larger pieces of work like editing Wikipedia articles.Old Weather, transcribing ships logs to get weather data to inform climate science...
  • ...but it turned transcribers into people interested in history... Unlike 'have your say' comment boxes, the earlier web 2.0 style 'user generated content' crowdsourcing in cultural heritage is about contributing to a meaningful, shared goal, like helping make collections more discoverable. The act of focusing on a text, image, etc long enough to transcribe or describe it seems to drive deeper engagement...Image:
  • Feed in plastic filament, they're melted, then squirted out in thin layers. 3D scans and 3D printing - new forms of making. Software allows existing objects to become inspiration for future objects with a much lower barrier to begin than years of sculpture and drawing classes and expensive/messy materials. MakerBot. RepRap. 30 things being 3D printed right now (and none of them are guns)
  • Could prototype or create things to match your exact desires. (The perfect tea caddy), personalised cookie cutters, earrings. Or an arm.
  • Sharing designs. Can start with existing designs.Local examples include 3D scanning SmartBar at Melbourne Museum Why? 'The answer ranges from science (especially palaeontological) research, to rapid prototyping of exhibition components, to modelling.'
  • Gives anyone the ability to create sculptural works. Love the way the Met's activity is matched to things they already value...
  • From a2 day 3D hackathon at the Metropolitan Museum in New York in June 2012.Jonathan Monaghan 'created 3D models of the late Baroque sculptures' then decided to 'mash them up', or remix them - in this case, a form of copy-and-pasting that recontextualised each artwork.
  • All this reminds me of... Cleaning up 3D models from scans requires close looking, understand structure of original in order to create equivalent forms, think about choices original artist or craftsperson made...Are 3D models continuing the same tradition? Does it depends on how much of an intervention is made?
  • Sugru is amazing silicon paste. Story of its creation a very maker story. 'I want to hack the stuff I already have so it works better for me.' 'Our vision from the start has been to help get the world repairing and making again.'
  • Built on top of Arduino - small computer processors. Sold as an 'invention kit'; turn objects into input devices. 'Any material that can conduct at least a tiny bit of electricity will work. Here are some materials people have used in our workshops including Ketchup, Pencil Graphite, Finger Paint, Lemons, etc.'
  • Lots of hackday creations use visualisations like timelines or maps. They're an easy way to get the sense of what's in a dataset - how messy the data is, what the scope is - and because they often use existing software libraries they can look impressive for comparatively little work. Mashups - combine two datasets into one interface. A way to find stories within datasets, or help make content more relevant to people.
  • This is how I started programming. This makes me both incredibly old now and incredibly privileged then. When my dad brought home our first computer, the only way you could get games on it was to type them in, line-by-line, from a magazine. If it didn't work, you had to go through and check every line until it did. Eventually, we figured out that some numbers related to how many lives your characters had, so we changed them so we had lots of lives. I didn't program again until uni, but that early experience of making something fun after some boring groundwork clearly stuck. Important sense of agency, accessibility. It definitely wasn't the ideal way to learn about programming, but it was more than kids using tablets get today.Image:
  • To replicate, must understand. Get a sense of what decisions were made and why, whether it's in book binding or creating software. US National Archives
  • I've spent my life bouncing between the arts and technology. Working in museums has been perfect for me, get to use both sides. Make through software code and through designing user experiences... I like problem solving, asking questions... Making lets me partake more fully in the world. I can think - it'd be great if x existed - and if I discover that it doesn't already exist, or doesn't exist quite as I'd like it, I can make it.
  • Group of strangers gathered together at Centre History and New Media at George Mason University. One week to think of something to make, and make it. Had to be something useful and usable; lots of eyes watching. Big potential for egg on face.
  • This was our first brainstorm. Bouncing up and down between detail, finding our way through different types of jargon, swapping between problem spaces. It felt about as messy as that board makes it look.
  • We made this! Serendipomatic is a tool that takes a piece of content, extracts the key terms, runs them as queries against collections aggregators like Europeana, DPLA and Flickr Commons, and gives you back surprising results. We aimed to give you back something you weren't expecting to see from in your text, whether it was an academic article, blog post, historic text, or even song lyrics. Try it now!
  • Creating a space for others to make. Ran the first ever mash-up competition in a museum, asking people to use our data to create an interesting interface to go with an exhibition. Learnt a lot, wrote a paper to share my lessons
  • From the pragmatic to the abstract... Throw away less, recycle more. Make existing things suit you better; create things that don't yet exist.
  • RaphKoster said the fun in games comes from learning. Making as participatory learning. Making as a framework for intimate contact with material? Successful making means getting up close, understanding the grain and texture of your material, whether wood or historical documents, as well as thinking about how the whole fits together.
  • Making offers all of these but the one I most identify with is hard fun.Easy Fun (Novelty): Curiosity from exploration, role play, and creativityHard Fun (Challenge): Fiero, the epic win, from achieving a difficult goalPeople Fun (Friendship): Amusement from competition and cooperationSerious Fun (Meaning): Excitement from changing the player and their world
  • A useful models for thinking about engagement and participation in cultural heritage projects... Department for Culture Media and Sport 'Culture and Sport Evidence' CASE (2011) defines four types of engagement, each of which builds on the previous level: 1) 'attending'- paying conscious, intentional attention to content; 2) 'participating' - interaction that contributes to the creation of content; 3) 'deciding' - making decisions about the delivery of resources for content creation and 4) 'producing' - creating content 'which has a public economic impact'.
  • Toys can be less about making than they used to be... Tablets are locked down, new Lego has less making... Good to set a pattern for self-motivated learning.This is the apparently un-ironically named 'Rapunzel's Creativity Tower'.
  •'In fact, Fayetteville Free Library (FFL) claims to be the first library to have ventured forth across this new frontier by installing a 3D printer for patron use and creating its FabLab (fabulous laboratory) makerspace.  “It's not about a 3D printer,” FFL Director Sue Considine says emphatically. “It's about providing access to the process of making; it's the idea of moving toward a read/write culture where people are creating culture rather than just consuming it.” The emphasis is on the community of people sharing and making with each other, rather than on the technology, though the breakthroughs in new technologies elevate the making to an enticing and challenging level.'
  • Image: Mitch Altman CC-BY-SA
  • Image:Scott Beale CC-BY-NC-ND
  • Not only openness to what you can learn from your 'audience'... Open content lends itself to creative re-uses. My games couldn't have been made without open data.Image: British Library on Flickr Commons
  • Letting people work with you can be challenging... Negotiation for collaboration. Not as fun to work to order.I was able to add the British Library's images over Christmas once they'd made them open. also included their images.
  • Who really has agency in the process? Important to think about whose voice can effect substantive change.Image via Arnstein, Sherry R. "A Ladder of Citizen Participation," JAIP, Vol. 35, No. 4, July 1969, pp. 216-224
  • (You probably already make...) It might sound obvious, but if you're running a maker space, it helps if you're a maker too.Nearly everyone has a secret, slightly nerdy interest, whether trainspotting, collecting teaspoons, taking certain kinds of photos, cooking your way through a repertoire... Follow that interest and try making something about it.
  • Labs can be difficult. 3D printing takes time. It can be tricky to work with material people have brought from home. Letting go of control can be hard. Not knowing what the outcomes will be, who'll turn up, what they'll want to do... If training or specialist knowledge is required, make that really clear so anyone planning a visit is aware. Have some activities that don't require training so there's always something interesting for casual drop-ins.
  • Remember that libraries can be intimidating spaces for some people. Some people need structured activities, others thrive on open-ended exploration.Image, State Library of New South Wales. First "Miss Australia", Beryl Mills of WA, 1927 / photographed by Sam HoodImage found via Serendipomatic.
  • Are you doing it *for* or *with* your community?[If you’re not an Australian of a certain age, Clayton’s Tonic was ‘the drink you have when you're not having a drink’.]
  • Helps you understand the experiences and needs of others. Designing participative experiences means you have to think a bit like a user experience designer. Think of it as being a secret shopper. Learn what you haven't explained very well because you're so embedded in the context
  • Empathy is your biggest design asset. Making will help you connect to a maker attitude. To understand how constraints can inspire creativity.
  • Otherwise new technology is left to people who want to commercialise everything to design our future.Someone asked me last night what best skill for a librarian to learn was, and since we haven't yet figured out the key of seeing into the future, the next best thing is learning how to learn - ideally, by yourself and as-needed.
  • Set up a pinterest or tumblr around an existing interest. Trying out social media like this is a chance to absorb the kinds of experiences the public might have. Learn for yourself how the experience of creating a tumblr is different to that of creating a pinterest board. Stick around for a while. How are the communities different? How do you feel about your subject now? It's also good to see for yourself how hard it is to find authoritative GLAM content online (lots of remediated, dodgy versions of things) - another argument for openness, or at least better search engine discoverability.
  • A day or two... have an internal hack day. Doesn't need to be with code, did one at the V&A with Katy Beale where we got people to draw and stick pictures to express their ideal experience. Or collaborate with technologists and designers.
  • Export the catalogue entries for your special collections and try putting them on a timeline or map... Lots of ways to play around with them further.See your collections through new eyes.GLAM people don't tend to see their collections as 'data', rather as sets of records in collections management systems. Play with your own data to get a sense of its quality and what others see in it.Image: 
  • Based on the interests of your research community, your special collections, your location or local history...
  • Set aside time for reflection. What did you learn? What worked well, what didn't? What would you do differently next time? Who can you share these lessons with?
  • Image:Matt Jones moleitau
  • Bringing maker culture to cultural organisations

    1. 1. Bringing maker culture to cultural organisations #VALA14 Melbourne, 2014 Mia Ridge, Open University, UK @mia_out Image: Garrett Mace CC-BY-NC-SA
    2. 2. Should museums, libraries and archives be places for looking at old stuff other people have made, or could they become places where new creations are inspired and made?
    3. 3. Should museums, libraries and archives be places for looking at old stuff other people have made, or could they become places where new creations are inspired and made? Yes.
    4. 4. ...they always have been
    5. 5. ...they always have been So the question is really...
    6. 6. Looking -> inspiring ->making? Image Mitch Altman CC-BY-SA
    7. 7. What is making? The value of making Creating maker spaces
    8. 8. 'MAKER CULTURE'?
    9. 9. Maker culture attitude Image:
    10. 10. You probably grew up making
    11. 11. Hacking
    12. 12. Maker spaces: learning together Images: Pargon Bill Ward Lester Public Library
    13. 13. Shared equipment Image:
    14. 14. Everyone's in?
    15. 15. EXAMPLES
    16. 16.
    17. 17. Photography
    18. 18. Music
    19. 19. Baking Image: Maury McCown
    20. 20. ...not 'making'?
    21. 21. Collecting then...
    22. 22. ...collecting now
    23. 23. How much 'making' on social media? Source: Forrester
    24. 24. Augmented reality
    25. 25. Yarn bombing
    26. 26. Knitting the past
    27. 27. Transcribing, tagging, labelling Transcribing, tagging, labelling
    28. 28. From crowdsourced microtasks to maritime history
    29. 29. 3D printing
    30. 30. 3d limb
    31. 31. 3D printing
    32. 32. ...mashed up Jonathan Monaghan's Leda and the Marsyas
    33. 33. Learning[studio model] school by copying is old
    34. 34. Sugru 'get the world repairing and making again'
    35. 35. MakeyMakey
    36. 36. Visualisations
    37. 37. Software
    38. 38. Unpacking the tacit knowledge in craft
    39. 39. WHY I LOVE MAKING
    40. 40. 'Hard fun'
    41. 41.
    42. 42. Fixing problems in the world • Museums have lots of objects that lack descriptions • People are looking for fun distractions Objects People Metadata games!
    43. 43.
    44. 44. Cosmic Collections
    45. 45. What is making? The value of making Creating maker spaces
    46. 46. The value of making • • • • • • Fix things Tailor things Follow your imagination New skills Creating fans Creating community
    47. 47. The value in making • Fun and learning • Thinking through making • Deeper engagement with science, heritage
    48. 48. 'Four keys to fun' Easy Fun (Novelty) Hard Fun (Challenge) People Fun (Friendship) Serious Fun (Meaning)
    49. 49. Engagement 'attending' 'participating' 'deciding' 'producing' Department for Culture Media and Sport 'Culture and Sport Evidence', 2011
    50. 50. Kids need spaces for making Lego's 'Rapunzel's Creativity Tower'
    51. 51. What is making? The value of making Creating maker spaces
    52. 52. Maker spaces can be... Physical Digital Intellectual
    53. 53. Physical maker spaces in libraries
    54. 54. Creating space through events Image: Mitch Altman CC-BY-SA
    55. 55. Hack days Image: Scott Beale
    56. 56. Intellectual space through open data
    57. 57. People create software to help...
    58. 58. So, create maker spaces ...but...
    59. 59. Who really has agency? "I participate, you participate, he participates, we participate, you participate...they profit.“ (1968) Via A Ladder of Citizen Participation - Sherry R Arnstein
    60. 60. WHY SHOULD YOU MAKE?
    61. 61. To spot the traps
    62. 62. Test your welcome, State Library of New South Wales
    63. 63. Clayton's inclusiveness? Beatriz Maldonado: 'Why must we attend and learn about 'making'? How could community members contribute to the space and its work?' Image: adrianhon Quote:
    64. 64. Be a secret shopper
    65. 65. Understand fiero
    66. 66. Why else? • Because it's fun • It takes time to get spaces right; learn with your communities • To understand the potential of new technologies • Learning how to learn is key for your future
    67. 67. SO WHAT CAN YOU DO? How much time have you got?
    68. 68. 'curate' online
    69. 69. Hold internal hack days
    70. 70. Try visualising your data
    71. 71. Hold an editathon
    72. 72. MOST IMPORTANTLY...
    73. 73. Reflect, learn, share Geoffrey POWELL Australia 1918 – 1989 Discussion (Hoyningen-Huene and Max Dupain) 1938 Via @serendipomatic
    74. 74. Thank you! Mia Ridge Open University, UK @mia_out Image: Matt Jones