The Impact of MAKE and CRAFT

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On Saturday, I was on a panel at a meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Mountain View. The program’s theme was “The Impact of Information Technology on Society” and I was on a panel on “Creative Arts and the Democratization of Craft”.

The chair of the panel was Pat Hanrahan, Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering in the Computer Graphics Lab at Stanford. He’s a Make subscriber and an enthusiastic fellow.

Among my fellow panelists were Carl Rosendahl, founder of Pacific Data Images, which is now part of Dreamworks. His company produced effects for Antz and Shrek. He gave a presentation on the technology of moviemaking, including the skeleton scene from the old “Jason and the Argonauts” juxtaposed with Davy Jones from Pirates of the Carribean. He also talked about Coraline — how everything in this stop-motion movie is made by hand. He’s a MAKE subscriber. His wife came up afterwards and said proudly “Carl’s a maker.” He wrote me today to say that we blogged his cool Black Box lightshow. I asked Carl if he’d like to write an article on one of his projects.

Jonathan Berger, professor of music at Stanford and a composer, knew Make and Maker Faire, and several of his students (Noah Thorp) have participated in Maker Faire. He gave an interesting talk on music composition and performance as well as listening to music. I blogged about his slide “Is it live, Memorex or MP3?” as “The Sizzling Sound of Music” on O’Reilly Radar.

The panel also featured Charles “Chuck” Geschke, co-founder of Adobe (the other co-founder, John Warnock, was in the audience). Geschke talked about the transition from analog to digital publishing systems and the development Adobe’s tools. While waiting to speak, he thumbed through MAKE and spotted Gareth Branwyn’s article on how William Blake on made his illustration on plates. Geschke remarked that his grandfather and father worked in a letter press company in Ohio doing photo engraving. He said that printers and engravers worked with lots of fairly toxic chemicals so he was surprised that his grandfather lived to a ripe old age. I sent Chuck Geschke home with a copy of MAKE to share with his grandkids.

We each gave 20 minute presentations and then took an hour of questions. Afterwards, the CEO of the Academy, Leslie Berlowitz, came up to me and said how glad she was that I participated. She and her grown daughter were Craft subscribers, and she was also sad to see it go out of print and wished us well continuing Craft online. Leslie had come out from Cambridge, MA to attend Maker Faire last year, and is coming back this year.

This tells you something about the reach of MAKE and how it connects to all kinds of people. My wife, Nancy, was at a conference in Miami for mostly educational non-profits working with government and she reported how many people were familiar with Make.

The latest issue of Wired (March) has a number of DIY articles. Clive Thompson talked about the revolution in one-off manufacturing, what he calls micromanufacturing. was mentioned.

In the same issue, Bob Thompson’s “Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments” got a nice mention in a column on building a home chem lab.

Also, this weekend, the Sunday NYT magazine had an article by Rob Walker on CraftyChica and the influence of indie crafts. We didn’t get mentioned in the article but we’ve been in the middle of this growth in indie crafting.

I am proud to see the impact of MAKE and CRAFT and Maker Faire, and how so many different kinds of people we are able to reach and connect to as makers. I’m always a little surprised. We’re part of an important conversation that seems to be happening everywhere right now.

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DALE DOUGHERTY is the leading advocate of the Maker Movement. He founded Make: Magazine 2005, which first used the term “makers” to describe people who enjoyed “hands-on” work and play. He started Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006, and this event has spread to nearly 200 locations in 40 countries, with over 1.5M attendees annually. He is President of Make:Community, which produces Make: and Maker Faire.

In 2011 Dougherty was honored at the White House as a “Champion of Change” through an initiative that honors Americans who are “doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.” At the 2014 White House Maker Faire he was introduced by President Obama as an American innovator making significant contributions to the fields of education and business. He believes that the Maker Movement has the potential to transform the educational experience of students and introduce them to the practice of innovation through play and tinkering.

Dougherty is the author of “Free to Make: How the Maker Movement Is Changing our Jobs, Schools and Minds” with Adriane Conrad. He is co-author of "Maker City: A Practical Guide for Reinventing American Cities" with Peter Hirshberg and Marcia Kadanoff.

View more articles by Dale Dougherty


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