The maker culture is a contemporary culture or subculture representing a technology-based extension of DIY culture that intersects with hacker culture (which is less concerned with physical objects as it focuses on software) and revels in the creation of new devices as well as tinkering with existing ones. The maker culture in general supports open-source hardware. Typical interests enjoyed by the maker culture include engineering-oriented pursuits such as electronics, robotics, 3-D printing, and the use of Computer Numeric Control tools, as well as more traditional activities such as metalworking, woodworking, and, mainly, its predecessor, the traditional arts and crafts. The subculture stresses a cut-and-paste approach to standardized hobbyist technologies, and encourages cookbook re-use of designs published on websites and maker-oriented publications. There is a strong focus on using and learning practical skills and applying them to reference designs.
The maker movement is a social movement with an artisan spirit.
Maker culture emphasizes learning-through-doing (active learning) in a social environment. Maker culture emphasizes informal, networked, peer-led, and shared learning motivated by fun and self-fulfillment. Maker culture encourages novel applications of technologies, and the exploration of intersections between traditionally separate domains and ways of working including metal-working, calligraphy, film making, and computer programming. Community interaction and knowledge sharing are often mediated through networked technologies, with websites and social media tools forming the basis of knowledge repositories and a central channel for information sharing and exchange of ideas, and focused through social meetings in shared spaces such as hackspaces. Maker culture has attracted the interest of educators concerned about students’ disengagement from STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in formal educational settings. Maker culture is seen as having the potential to contribute to a more participatory approach and create new pathways into topics that will make them more alive and relevant to learners.
Some say that the maker movement is a reaction to the de-valuing of physical exploration and the growing sense of disconnection with the physical world in modern cities. Many products produced by the maker communities have a focus on health (food), sustainable development, environmentalism and local culture, and can from that point of view also be seen as a negative response to disposables, globalised mass production, the power of chain stores, multinationals and consumerism.
In reaction to the rise of maker culture, Barack Obama pledged to open several national research and development facilities to the public. In addition the U.S. federal government renamed one of their national centers "America Makes".
The methods of digital fabrication—previously the exclusive domain of institutions—have made making on a personal scale accessible, following a logical and economic progression similar to the transition from minicomputers to personal computers in the microcomputer revolution of the 1970s. In 2005, Dale Dougherty launched Make magazine to serve the growing community, followed by the 2006 launch of Maker Faire. The term, coined by Dougherty, grew into a full-fledged industry based on the growing number of DIYers who want to build something rather than buy it.
Spurred primarily by the advent of RepRap 3D printing for the fabrication of prototypes, declining cost and broad adoption have opened up new realms of innovation. As it has become cost effective to make just one item for prototyping (or a small number of household items), this approach can be depicted as personal fabrication for "a market of one person".
The rise of the maker culture is closely associated with the rise of hackerspaces, Fab Labs and other "makerspaces", of which there are now many around the world, including over 100 each in Germany and the United States. Hackerspaces allow like-minded individuals to share ideas, tools, and skillsets. Some notable hackerspaces which have been linked with the maker culture include Artisan's Asylum, Dallas Makerspace, Noisebridge, NYC Resistor, Pumping Station: One, and TechShop. In addition, those who identify with the subculture can be found at more traditional universities with a technical orientation, such as MIT and Carnegie Mellon (specifically around "shop" areas like the MIT Hobby Shop and CMU Robotics Club). As maker culture becomes more popular, hackerspaces and Fab Labs are becoming more common in universities and public libraries. The federal government has started adopting the concept of fully open makerspaces within its agencies, the first of which (SpaceShop Rapid Prototyping Lab) resides at NASA Ames Research Center. In Europe the popularity of the labs is more prominent than in the US: about three times more labs exist there.
Outside Europe and the US, the maker culture is also on the rise, with several hacker or makerspaces being landmarks in their respective cities' entrepreneurial and educational landscape. More precisely: HackerspaceSG in Singapore has been set up by the team now leading the city-state's (and, arguably, South-East Asia's) most prominent accelerator JFDI.Asia. Lamba Labs in Beirut is recognized as a hackerspace where people can collaborate freely, in a city often divided by its different ethnic and religious groups. Xinchejian in Shanghai is China's first hackerspace, which allows for innovation and collaboration in a country known for its strong internet censorship.
With the rise of cities, which will host 60% of mankind by 2030, hackerspaces, fablabs and makerspaces will likely gain traction, as they are places for local entrepreneurs to gather and collaborate, providing local solutions to environmental, social or economical issues. The Institute for the Future has launched in this regard Maker Cities as "an open and collaborative online game, to generate ideas about how citizens are changing work, production, governance, learning, well-being, and their neighborhoods, and what this means for the future".
The most comprehensive directory of Makerspaces around the world can be found here.
As tools and technology became increasingly affordable and accessible, and the business of making ecosystem more expansive, and new makers started to learn basic skills such as soldering and working with Arduino and other easy-to-program development platforms, makers began to segment into three distinct groups. Dougherty identified them as zero-to-maker, maker-to-maker, and maker-to-market. A fourth segment was recently added: maker-enabler, or maker-advocate.
Zero to maker: Every maker has a different starting point. However, the common thread begins with an inspiration to invent, the spark that turns an individual from purely consuming products to having a hand in actually making them. To go from zero to maker, the two most important aspects are the ability to learn the requisite skills and access to the necessary means of production.
Maker to maker: The distinction in this stage is that makers begin to collaborate and access the expertise of others. At this stage, makers also contribute to existing platforms. Powerful undercurrents are at work, both from technological revolution as well as unleashing the innate desire for self-expression and creation. The desire to improve and share with others catalyzes the move to “maker to maker.”
Maker to market: From the workshops and the digital communities, a new wave of invention and innovation springs forth. Knowledge flows and concentrates. Some of the inventions and creations will appeal to a broader audience than the original makers. Some may even find commercial appeal. However, even if only a few makers pursue market opportunities, the impact may be huge.
Maker advocate: For every maker in the above segments there are individuals that foster and support them. Children's museums and public libraries are promoting more DIY activities and tools to expose patrons to maker culture in the zero-to-maker segment. Family members and maker space staff support the maker-to-maker segment. Many maker businesses have a cloud of supporting personnel that enable their success. Although not necessarily makers themselves, these maker-advocates comprise a large segment of maker culture.
The cloud describes a family of tools in service of the maker movement, enabling increased collaboration, digital workflow, distributed manufacturing (i.e., the download of files that translate directly into objects via a digitized manufacturing process) and collaborative economy. This, combined with the Open source movement, initially focused on software, has been expanding into open-source hardware, assisted by easy access to online plans (in the cloud) and licensing agreements.
Some example of cloud-based tools include online project repositories like Appropedia and thingiverse, version-controlled collaborative platforms like GitHub and wevolver, knowledge sharing platforms like instructables, wikipedia and other Wikis, including WikiHow and wikifab and platforms for distributed manufacturing like shapeways and 100k garages.
Programmable microcontrollers and microcomputers like the Arduino, Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone Black, and Intel’s Galileo and Edison controllers, are easy to program and enable connected devices, and some open source. Combined with the cloud, they’re helping create the Internet of Things, and lower the barrier to entry for hardware development.
Desktop 3D printing is now possible in various plastics and metals. In combination with DIY open-source microelectronics, they can create autoreplicant 3d printers, such as RepRap. Digital fabrication also includes various subtractive fabrication tech, eg. Laser cutting, CNC milling, and Knitting machines.
To create one's own designs for digital fabrication requires digital design tools, like solidworks, autodesk, and Rhinoceros 3D. More recently, less expensive or easier to use software has emerged. For example, fusion 360 is free for start ups and individuals, and onshape and tinkercad are browser-based digital design software.
Online project repositories make many parts available for digital fabrication— even for people who are unable to do their own design work. Opendesk is one example of a company which has made a business by designing and hosting projects for distributed digital fabrication.
Maker Culture is not all about new, digital technologies. Traditional and analog tools remain crucial to the movement. Traditional tools are often more familiar and accessible, which is key to Maker Culture. In many places and projects where digital fabrication tools are just not suitable, hand tools are.
Maker culture involves many types of making - this section reviews some of the major types.
This involves making scientific instruments for citizen science or open source labs. With the advent of low-cost digital manufacturing it is becoming increasingly common for scientists as well as amateurs to fabricate their own scientific apparatuses from open source hardware designs. Docubricks is a repository of open source science hardware.
Clothing can also include knitted or crocheted clothing and accessories. Some knitters may use knitting machines with varying degrees of automatic patterning. Fully electronic knitting machines can be interfaced to computers running computer-aided design software. Arduino boards have been interfaced to electronic knitting machines to further automate the process.
Tool kits for maker cosmetics can include beakers (250 and 400 ml), digital scales, laboratory thermometers (if possible, from -20 to 110 °C), pH paper, glass rods, plastic spatulas, and spray to disinfect with alcohol.
Perfumes can be done at home using (96°) ethanol (also in the form of vodka or Everclear), essential oils or fragrance oils, infused oils, even flavour extracts (such as pure vanilla extract), distilled or spring water and glycerine. Tools include glass bottles, glass jar, measuring cup/measuring spoons, a dropper, funnel and aluminum foil or wrapping paper, if you are using clear glass bottles.
The concept of homemade and experimental instruments in music has its roots prior to the maker movement, from complicated experiments with figures such as Reed Ghazala and Michel Waisvisz pioneering early circuit bending techniques to simple projects such as the Cigar Box Guitar. Bart Hopkin published the magazine Experimental Musical Instruments for 15 years followed by a series of books about instrument building. Organizations such as Zvex, WORM, STEIM, Death by Audio, and Casper Electronics cater to the do-it-yourself audience, while musicians like Nicolas Collins and Yuri Landman create and perform with custom made and experimental instruments.
A kit car, also known as a "component car", is an automobile that is available as a set of parts that a manufacturer sells and the buyer himself then assembles into a functioning car.
Motorcycle making and conversions are also represented. As examples: Tinker Bike is an open source motorcycle kit adaptable to recycled components; NightShift Bikes is a small, Makerist project in custom, DIY electric motorcycle conversions.
MAKE (a magazine published since 2004 by O'Reilly Media), is considered a "central organ of the Maker Movement,"  and its founder, Dale Dougherty, is widely considered the founder of the Movement. Other media outlets associated with the movement include Wamungo, Hackaday, Makery, and the popular weblog Boing Boing. Boing Boing editor Cory Doctorow has written a novel, Makers, which he describes as being "a book about people who hack hardware, business-models, and living arrangements to discover ways of staying alive and happy even when the economy is falling down the toilet".
In 2016 Intel sponsored a reality TV show—America's Greatest Makers—where 24 teams of Makers compete for $1 million.
Since 2006 the subculture has held regular events around the world, Maker Faire, which in 2012 drew a crowd of 120,000 attendees. Smaller, community driven Maker Faires referred to as Mini Maker Fairs are also held in various places where an O'Reilly-organised Maker Faire has not yet been held. Maker Faire provides a Mini Maker Faire starter kit to encourage the spread of local Maker Faire events.
The Maker Movement has at times been criticized for not fulfilling its goals of inclusivity and democratization. The most famous of these critiques come from Deb Chachra's piece, Why I Am Not a Maker in The Atlantic, criticizing the movement's gendered history and present ; Evgeny Morozov's Making It in The New Yorker, challenging the movement's potential to actually disrupt or democratize innovation;  and Will Holman's The Toaster Paradox, about Thomas Thwaites' the Toaster Project's challenges to the DIY and "Maker impulse."
In 2012, Garnet Hertz published a 10 issue book series titled Critical Making that collected submissions from 70 designers, artists and academics to critically rethink the maker movement. The project was an "appeal to the electronic DIY maker movement to be critically engaged with culture, history and society: after learning to use a 3D printer, making an LED blink or using an Arduino, then what?"
We can finally fix that boundary between art and artisans.
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