Makers & Makerspace Culture

First introduction

21st century skills go beyond critical thinking and problem-solving. These important skills include flexibility, collaboration, adaptability, oral and written communication, information literacy, technological literacy, productivity, social skills, leadership, initiative and more. The Maker movement is a cultural trend that places value on an individual’s ability to be a creator of things as well as a consumer of things.  In this culture, individuals who create things are called “Makers.” Makers come from all walks of life, with diverse skill sets and interests. The thing they have in common is creativity, an interest in design and access to tools and raw materials that make production possible.

Practical relevance

– This is what you will need the knowledge and skills for

After completion of this module you will have a clear idea about what a Maker is, as well as an understanding of  Makerspaces, Fab Labs, and other key concepts of this topic. You will also learn the history of Makerspaces and the Do it Yourself Movement.

Overview of learning objectives and competences

In this module you are going to learn the basic information about the Maker movement and Maker culture. Additionally, you will also learn the explanation of confusing phrases in the maker movement. Then you will find out the basic requirements to be a Maker. Finally, you will have some further reading materials to improve your understanding of the topics covered in this module.

Required skills for this module

Basic computer skills will be more than enough for this module. Learning to learn, creativity, an interest in design and curiosity are important to complete  this training

What is a Makerspace?

A makerspace is a collaborative work space inside a school, library or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing that uses high tech to no tech tools. These spaces are open to kids, adults, and entrepreneurs and have a variety of maker equipment including 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC machines, soldering irons and even sewing machines. To be considered as a makerspace, this place does not need to have all the machines.

"To define a school makerspace by its purpose and simplest of terms, it is a place where young people have an opportunity to explore their own interests; learn to use tools and materials, both physical and virtual; and develop creative projects"
Laura Flemming
Worlds of Making

Many Names, One Mission

There are a variety of phrases that confuse the mind. Some of these are Makerspaces, Hackerspaces, and Fab Labs, etc. Is there a difference between these names?  Yes and no. The common ground is that they are all places designed for making, collaborating, learning and sharing. Although these spaces have a lot in common, they are also different in a few ways. Makerspaces, hackerspaces, and Fab Labs developed independently, however they have common or similar uses and structures. Each of them is a kind of community where members share ideas and tools in order to produce goods or tools. 

Fab Lab

To start with, a Fab Lab; It’s a trademarked name for a particular type of makerspace which has its own specific rules and charters to follow. Fab Lab (fabrication laboratory) is a small-scale workshop offering (personal) digital fabrication. A Fab Lab is typically equipped with an array of flexible computer-controlled tools that cover several different length scales and various materials, with the aim to make “almost anything”. (Gershenfeld, Neil A. )
Fab Labs were started by MIT Professor Neil Gershenfeld at the Centre for Bits and Atoms in MIT’s Media Lab.  A Fab Lab is a small-scale workshop offering digital fabrication. The first Fab Lab was founded in 2001 in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Vigyan Ashram in India was the first Fab Lab to be set up outside MIT. It was established in 2002. Official website of Fab lab is https://fablabs.io/.

Fablabs.io is the online social network of the international Fab Lab community. The Fab Lab Network is an open, creative community of fabricators, artists, scientists, engineers, educators, students, amateurs, professionals, ages 5 to 75+, located in more than 40 countries in approximately 1000 Fab Labs.

Hackerspace

The concept of a hackerspace started in Europe as a collection of programmers (i.e., the traditional use of the term ‘hacker’) sharing a physical space. The traditional definition of “hacker” is commonly used in the media and widely understood to have a negative meaning. Here are the two definitions of it:

a person who illegally gains access to and sometimes tampers with information in a computer system 

an expert at programming and solving problems with a computer (Cambridge Dictionary)

A hackerspace (also known as hackspace or hacklab) is a place in the community where programmers, coders, developers or anyone with a keen interest in tech can meet, work, share skills and engage in creative problem solving. Hackerspaces are community-operated physical places, where people share their interest in tinkering with technology, meet and work on their projects, and learn from each other. It is a community-orientated and not-for-profit concept, so memberships are cheap and sometimes free. One of the first independent hackerspaces to open its doors was a German space known as c-base that opened in 1995.

The concept of a hackerspace started as places in the community where a group of computer programmers could collectively meet, work, and share infrastructure. They would “hack” technology and try to make it do something it wasn’t meant to do.  This term of “hacking” or “hacker” in the computer sense soon progressed and expanded into the hacking of physical objects as we know it today. Alan Henry defines a hackerspace as:  “a hackerspace (or hackspace) is a shared workspace where you can tackle DIY projects you wouldn’t normally be able to because you don’t have the space or materials.” Hackerspaces are also completely independent from each other, although collaboration between spaces is common.

Makerspace

The term makerspace didn’t really exist in the public sphere until 2005, when MAKE Magazine was published for the first time. However the term didn’t really become popular until early 2011, when Dale and MAKE Magazine registered makerspace.com and started using the term to refer to publicly-accessible places to design and create (oftentimes in the context of creating spaces for children). Makerspace is a place in which people with shared interests, especially in computing or technology, can gather to work on projects while sharing ideas, equipment, and knowledge.

"the makerspace is equipped with 3D printers, laser cutters, various milling devices, and more"
Lexico Dictionary

Makerspaces are also commonly known as hackerspaces and Fab Labs, and are generally understood to be community workshops where members share tools for professional gain or hobbyist pursuits. These spaces attract individuals who identify as Makers and support members by spreading the cost of industrial tools and gathering community to share knowledge, time, and effort on projects.

It’s hard to find many differences anymore between the two terms, makerspace and hackerspace, and at this point it’s just a matter of preference which name you choose or associate with. The problem with the term hackerspace is the unfortunate negative image people have of a hacker.

Makers & Maker Movements: What is Maker Culture?

Maker culture which can also be called Do-It-Yourself Culture (DIY Culture), speaks to the very informal, highly networked, peer-lead movement of sharing skills. The maker culture in general supports open-source hardware.

Maker culture: the activities and ideas of people who create or invent things, either using traditional crafts or technology
Cambridge Dictionary

Some of the popular fields that are addressed within Maker culture are art, metal-working and jewellery making, calligraphy, filmmaking, website making and design, and technology. Products that are produced within these communities have a focus on sustainable development, helping the environment, and improving the local culture. Typical interests enjoyed by the maker culture also include engineering-oriented pursuits such as electronics, robotics, 3-D printing, and the use of Computer Numeric Control tools.

Making: Making is viewed as an umbrella term that may include programs that refer to themselves as ‘tinkering’ rather than ‘making’ or spaces that refer to themselves as Fab Labs rather than makerspaces (CMP & IMLS, 2017).

Maker Culture and the movement around it is thought to be a reaction to the disconnect within the physical world in cities. To simplify this, Maker culture has been created as a bridge to pull communities back into sharing and face-to-face interaction as people help one another. 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-fulfilment. The Maker movement is based on re-use and sharing of projects and their results, creativity and innovation

Who Are the Makers?

A Maker can be defined as the technological hobbyist of the 21st century. They have a strong passion for technology, design, art, sustainability and alternative business models. They live sharing their interests in online communities, dreaming of inventing self-made products, to live through their own inventions.

Six Statistics that reveal the size and scope of the Maker Movement:
  1. There have been over 800 Maker Faires organized around the world since 2012.
  2. Global 3D printing products and services market size was worth $16 billion in 2020 and expected to be $40,6 billion by 2024. 
  3. There are more than 1975 hackerspaces around the world.
  4. Over 10,000 Kickstarter projects launched in 2019 
  5. By 2025, the crowdfunding investment market is projected to reach $93 billion.
  6. 889+ crowdfunding platforms are registered in Europe where 377 platforms are in the UK, 106 in France, 101 in Spain, 88 in Germany, and 73 in Italy.

The Maker movement is a grassroots initiative to create, innovate, and build in a collaborative environment. A cross between DIY projects, STEM disciplines, and hacker culture, the Maker movement celebrates collaboration, exploration, and working with one’s hands. The start of the Maker movement is accredited to the founding of Make Zine in 2005 and the Maker Faire in 2006, both by Maker Media.

Basis of being a Maker

Making is about being free to fail, having the space to discover, and collective problem solving. A Maker learns new skills and practices using different computer programs and digital equipment, but the core value of innovation learning is not what is produced but the process of producing itself. Making is fun! Creating projects in an open, tactile, and experimental environment opens up infinite possibilities for learning and growing. Certain characteristics exemplify the components typical of maker-centred learning experiences and seem to describe a particular:

  1. Culture: (e.g., disruptive, curious, forward-looking, experimental): A person who wants to be a maker should be curious to search and improve him/herself. Concerned with or planning for the future about the work. Love to make experiments to improve even though they have failed many times.
  2. Community (e.g., collaborative, distributed, creative): Being a maker requires working collaboratively. Maker philosophy values  helping each other and sharing knowledge rather than being in competition. Makers have a community to work collaboratively in the same setting by distributing the knowledge. Being a creative person is also a must.
  3. Process (e.g., iterative, interdisciplinary, flexible): Makerspaces are interdisciplinary places by nature, combining different tools and devices and also bringing different interests and qualifications together in the same place. A maker should be iterative, that means to do the same thing many times without getting tired of it. Being flexible while working on a project is also important.
  4. Environment (e.g., open, accessible, tool/media rich): Makerspaces are open and accessible communities to new people and a maker should be also open to new ideas and always try to improve him/herself.

In a makerspace the learning happens through making, tinkering, art and engineering real things based on an individual’s interest. Students are interested in this type of learning when they have an idea to create something new (Making). Tinkering is a playful way to approach and solve problems through experimentation and discovery. So, being a maker requires these skills.

What is a Maker mindset?

  • Makers are curious and try to learn something new. They are explorers. They usually follow projects that they personally find interesting.
  • Makers are playful. They work on projects enabling them to construct their way to new knowledge, while enjoying what they do, being actively engaged in iterating with materials and ideas, and producing meaningful things.
  • Makers take risks. They aren’t afraid to try new things that they haven’t done before.
  • Makers are resilient. They don’t give up easily even if they have failed several times.
  • Makers are resourceful DIY-enthusiasts. They look for materials and inspiration as well as unexpected problems.
  • Makers take responsibility. They are not afraid to work on projects to help others.
  • Makers are open hearted and good sharers. They share their knowledge, their materials and tools and their time to support others.
  • Makers are optimistic. They believe that they can make a difference in the world.

While all the Makers that we spoke with exhibited at least one of these qualities , they all found a way to build up a network that contained all these traits and behaviours, replicating the advantages of a more well-rounded start-up.

5 Types of Makers

  1. Self-learner Maker: Someone who learns and improves him/herself without a asking help from others
  2. Do It Yourself Maker: Someone who makes on his/her own.
  3. Promaker: Someone who uses or sells what he/she produces for business goals 
  4. Educator Maker: Someone who teaches others
  5. Entrepreneur Maker: Who creates products from a philosophy of innovation. Creates small businesses for the market.

Before Starting Other Modules…

This module explains and introduces what a Maker is, as well as a makerspace, the Maker movement and Maker culture. Basic level of computer literacy will be important to start some modules. Don’t be afraid, you are not required to know everything about computers. Keep in mind that when you are stuck or don’t understand something, don’t be shy to ask others. Of course, curiosity, creativity,  and collaborative skills will also help you.

Remember, if you can imagine it, you can make it!

A Makerspace Manifesto

Part of a Makerspace is to invite others to participate in the Maker movement and adopt some of the liberating philosophies many Makers share. The following image is illustrated in the Maker Manifesto put together by Maker Faire Africa.

There are a few fundamental understandings that we’d want any person participating in a Makerspace to come away with:

  • Everyone is a Maker.
  • Our world is what we make it.
  • If you can imagine it, you can make it.
  • If you can’t open it, you don’t own it.
  • We share what we make, and help each other make what we share.
  • We see ourselves as more than consumers—we are productive; we are creative.
  • Makers ask, “What can I do with what I know?”
  • Makers seek out opportunities to learn to do new things, especially through hands-on, DIY (do- it-yourself) interactions.
  • The divisions between subjects like math and art and science dissolve when you are making things. Making is an interdisciplinary endeavor.
  • It’s alright if you fail, as long as you use it as an opportunity to learn and to make something better.
  • We’re not about winners and losers. We’re about everyone making things better. We help one another do better. Be open, inclusive, encouraging and generous in spirit.
  • We celebrate other Makers — what they make, how they make it and the enthusiasm and passion that drives them

Further Reading

If you want to further improve your knowledge and read more about makerspaces, continue with this part. However, if you feel that you have enough information, you can continue with Module 2: Craft & Materials.

Research in this area shows that the maker movement has been growing year by year. In the last 5-10 years, many actors and stakeholders in education and training have started looking to understand how making activities could support educational goals. In recent years, makerspaces have proliferated in European museums, libraries, schools and universities.

You can access more resources from the following links to improve and get more information for yourself.

International Networks, Fairs and Events

Makerspace network can be reached from https://makerspaces.make.co/.

On this website there is an interactive map of makerspaces all around the world. Additionally, new makerspaces can add or edit for the changes of their space to the map.

For Fab Labs, a similar online network page in development. To search the Fab Labs around you, simply go to the page https://www.fablabs.io/labs A short introduction of each Fab Lab, with address, employees and capabilities can be found.

Similarly, from https://hackaday.io/hackerspaces hackerspaces around the world can be accessed and new hackerspaces can sign up to be a part of the network.

Maker Faire

Maker Faire is an event created by Make magazine to “celebrate arts, crafts, engineering, science projects and the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) mindset”. Make Magazine assists independent event organizers in producing small-scale Maker Faire events in local communities called “Mini Maker Faire”. Upcoming Maker Faires can be found on https://makerfaire.com/. Maker Faires are a global celebration of innovation, creativity, and curiosity showcasing the very best of the Maker Movement. People of all ages and backgrounds gather to learn, share, play, and make.

Past Maker faires can be found on the website and applications to host/organize a faire can also be done from the website.

 

Quizz