“Why I believe in maker culture”

“Why I believe in maker culture”

My friend, Willow Bay, has a brief piece on The Steampunk Workshop called “Why I believe in maker culture.” Snip:

All the things I do in life (which, admittedly, is a lot) are about Doing. I’m up to my eyeballs in Stuff to Do and up to my elbows in What I’m Doing because I love it, and because I so adamantly believe that Maker Culture is a healthy response to an unhealthy pop culture. Here’s a glimpse at why I feel this way.

When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Which is to say, you use the tools you have to solve the problems at hand. Tools and technology do, of course, range everywhere from a wrench to language to roads to electricity. And when your tool is the mindset of a maker, any system at hand looks like something to be tinkered with and improved upon.

Willow is also the director of a relatively new makerspace in Seattle called Jigsaw Renaissance. I love the first paragraph of their About Us page:

So, here’s the idea: Ideas. Unfiltered, unencumbered, and unapologetically enthusiastic ideas. Ideas that lead to grease-smeared hands, lavender sorbet, things that go bang, clouds of steam, those goggle-marks you see on crazy chemistry geeks, and some guy (or girl) in the background juggling and swinging from a trapeze.

What is your feeling about the concept of “maker culture?” Is there such a thing in your mind? It it a fad or something more significant and enduring? Has becoming a maker and participating in things like Maker Faires, hackerspaces, Dorkbots, or other DIY festivals and activities, changed the way you look at the world?

Why I believe in Maker Culture

34 thoughts on ““Why I believe in maker culture”

  1. Helvetica says:

    The maker culture has become more organized, cohesive, and has been given a name and a badge of pride now, but the individual maker spirit is as old as humanity. We just used to call ourselves artists, inventors and eccentrics. And get sand kicked in our faces. :)

    1. willowbl00 says:

      Yes! And now we make sand castles.

  2. volkemon says:

    I guess if you are not used to it, grease covered hands are ‘alternative’ …

    But as a mechanic, learning from ‘elder’ mechanics, the poor condition of their hands from exposure to grease,oil etc is SCARY!!!! Heck, even Collin’s dirty nails in the inductor video made me notice.

    Safety glasses for the eyes are ‘taken for granted’. Likewise with ear protection.

    The skin on your opposable digits? PRICELESS. Or at least really,really expensive. I started wearing gloves when the dermatologist casually referred to my ‘wont come clean’ patches on the side of my fingers as ‘pre-cancerous’ (sp?) Thanks to my friend, (then girlfriend) Linda for her concern of my rough hands.

    PLEASE folks… get latex gloves. Or any other protective product in glove form that doesn’t aggrivate your skin. Yes, dirty hands may be as different in your crowd as blue hair…but the results may be much more painful and permanent.

    When you are a ‘seasoned’ maker, years from now, you will thank me. Even if you forget me, the fact that your skin isn’t crcking and bleeding from normal use will be worth it.

  3. Gareth Branwyn says:

    Now, Volkemon, that’s a perfect example of a great comment that takes unnecessary, and knowing Willow, unfair swipes at somebody here.

    Can’t you post this sort of useful information, that amateurs can learn from professionals like yourself, without having to take pot-shots using “alternative” and “your crowd” as put-downs and commenting on the color of her hair?

    Again, I would ask: Would you say those things to her face? If you actually want to impart information, it’s probably not a good idea to make the person you’re talking to feel defense and hurt while you do it.

    1. willowbl00 says:

      It’s true that dirty hands are fetishized a bit in the maker community, and I appreciate your concern. It’s the idea of Doing here that I’m trying to convey, the unabashed diving into a project when the time is nigh. When actually teaching a class, or one on one, I and my fellow makers are always adamant about safety. Safe eyes, heads, ears, hands, tools, etc are essential. We like our fingers – they let us get more done. But safety is certainly overlooked an awful lot in general. I’d love to read an overview of general tips and steps I (and those like me) could take in addition.

      1. volkemon says:

        @Gareth..Willowbl00 also..

        WHOA! I did not in any way mean to “take unnecessary, and knowing Willow, unfair swipes at somebody here.”

        ” take pot-shots using “alternative” and “your crowd” as put-downs ”

        Alternative? I am a maker freak, drove around in a VW microbus covered in christmas lights this season, and (before the new job dictated otherwise) had an ‘Alfalfa'(lil’ rascals…) style hairdo that I would put various color on the tip.

        ‘My crowd’ is that one beachside that the kids laugh at and adults shake their head. Not that this look/life denotes irresposibility- just us freaks having fun. I am one of the first to help a stranger, I try not to pass a stranded motorist without offering aid. (Politely and keeping a safe distance- I am a big guy and might appear threatening to people in distress)

        And how did I negatively comment on her hair? Sorry for the people that are colorblind, or using B&W monitors, but the vivid blue hair is a bit more obvious to most than the dirty hands! And social- as my hair used to, it probably opens the door to more than a few conversations that start with “Wow- cool hair!”

        Would I say this to her face? Sure! And no, not out of a desire to be rude!! (Willow is kinda cute :) I honestly meant NONE of what I said to be rude or offensive to anyone. As a matter of fact, reading Willow’s reply, I see a lack of “feel(ing) defense(ive)and hurt” by my comment.

        “It’s true that dirty hands are fetishized a bit in the maker community” actually goes beyond any meaning I was trying to convey. Googling the meaning to get a wider view beyond the sexual reference, I saw a trend of “irrational/fanatical devotion to an event/activity/item” which is backed up by “It’s the idea of Doing here that I’m trying to convey, the unabashed diving into a project when the time is nigh.” …and not taking a few moments to employ easy protection? I was just trying to relate an (apparently)overlooked precaution that could save much trouble in the future.

        Passion for a project is GREAT! When my Arduino parts arrived I was up messing with them waaaay too late on a work night. But my passion was not so blind I was close over the board inhaling solder fumes as I made the x-bee modules. I took a moment to prepare an area where I had my little 4″ desk fan humming off to the side. “Unabashed diving” into anything can be fun and exciting, but maybe not the best path for a long, quality life.

        Now Gareth, you can look at my comments in the past. I will respond to ‘snarkyness’ with the same, but try NEVER to do personal attacks on anyone. How can I be informed of their ‘meaning’ ? All we have is a few lines to read, and it is difficult and unfair to try to judge people’s ‘hidden’ meanings and motives.

        Ultimately, “one finds what one is looking for”. You are kinda ‘on the hunt’ for any thing that anyone could construe as an attack, and so you are finding them. Part of your job, I realize, but dont get so personal judging me! But I am a friendly freak, after all, and understand why you are doing so.

        As a subscriber, MakerShed customer and registered commenter you have my email address(es). If I am out of line, please correct me, as we are a bit off topic here already.

        As always, comments RULE! Learned something new already today. Thanks! and PEACE.

        (And I know, as soon as I post this I will find at least 2 things I wish I could edit…sorry in advance!)

        1. Gareth Branwyn says:

          Hey Volkemon,

          Thanks for your great post and clarification. My mistake, and clearly one of those things where one read can into text what one wants (or at least can easily be thrown off by something not intended by the author). I apologize. I really do appreciate your contributions to the site.

          And again, thanks for the original tip. Honestly, I *never* think to protect my hands when doing “dirty work,” so it’s definitely a good thought to keep in mind.

          1. willowbl00 says:

            This is one of the things we’re trying to sort with Jigsaw, actually.. how can you have a group of people who have a history of being ostracized for being oddballs, and have them interact with all sorts of people? I vote for hugs.

            Gareth, thank you for looking out for me – the internet can be a mean place. I like the community you’ve helped to build here, and the ability to hash things out.

  4. Simon says:

    Hi Gareth, I understand what you guys are trying to do here and I think it’s great but I must admit I had to re-read Volkemon’s comment several times to find what was ‘wrong’ with it. I think when you say don’t write things you wouldn’t say to someone’s face that’s excellent advice but then we have to remember talking and typing are different things and it’s much harder to say something in text than in person and get the subtleties across sometimes. But I think we’ll lose a lot if people are so dry and careful in their comments they can’t write naturally. Also you don’t want to scare people off from commenting if they are always worrying if they might type something to offend.

    Anyway, you guys seem to have it sorted out :)

    What I actually wanted to say was looking after your hands is very important and I know this from personal experience. You can end up becoming hyper-sensitised to certain chemicals and once that happens things can become very unpleasant for you very quickly.

    This happened to me. After spending hours and hours doing the body work on my car (a bare metal respray so filling, sanding, priming, more sanding, more filling, etc) I started getting a rash on my hands. As soon as my panelbeater saw it he told me I had to stop doing it right away and stay away from the chemicals painting a car gets you near.

    Once you get sensitised any exposure can set things off so the only solution is to stay away. He said he’s seen car painters careers ruined when they suddenly become hyper-sensitised to the chemicals and paints they use. I know now that paints and epoxy resins can set me off so I am extra careful using them.

    Also it’s worth saying all this happened to me even though I was always wearing gloves (to protect me and the bare steel of the car)! Best thing to do is try to avoid contact with the nasty stuff if at all possible.

    1. Gareth Branwyn says:

      Hey Simon, you’re absolutely right about us having to be careful and not over-interpret, as I did here.

      The whole “would you say it to the person’s face?” bit is just a convenient litmus test because too often I think people say things online to others they would NEVER say in person. So asking yourself that question, I think, can be helpful in keeping one’s comments civil. But you’re also right that we don’t want to become the thought police or stifle people’s self-expression. We’re just requesting some degree of civility and common (uncommon?) courtesy. And, on occasion (hopefully, only on occasion) we’ll get it wrong.

      A perfect example of being WAY off in reading an online posting happened to me back in the radio days of cyberspace, on the Well BBS, back in the early ’90s. I had posted a couple of things that a very well-known newspaper journalist had commented on. Not big-deal comments, but I was just so thrilled that anybody “famous” in the journo world had said anything positive about some thought I’d shared. Then I posted something and he responded again. But this time, it was NOT positive, or it didn’t appear so. In fact, I thought he was ripping me a new one. I was crushed. I spent the weekend obsessing over it, losing sleep over it, even. I composed countless rebuttals in my head. Finally, I screwed up the courage to send him an email and ask “why you hatin’ on me?” He wrote back this aghast message and said NO! You read me completely wrong. He explained the intent of his response, the spirit of it. I went back and re-read it, and OMG! I now read an entirely different message. I wish I could remember the exchange, and the subject, ’cause it was sort of a perfect, tho extreme, case study of what we’re talking about here.

      And the icing on the cake is that, in the course of his response, he told me that he really liked my writing. That about made my year.

  5. Jake von Slatt says:

    Hey Volkemon,

    After reading your response to Gar I get the distinct feeling that you and my buddy Willow would get along famously! ;-)

    I’ve suffered from eczema on my hands since adolescence and any soap or solvent can irritate it greatly so I have about a dozen different specialized gloves handy at any time. You might even say I have a bit of a fetish when it comes to work gloves.

    One line that I particularly like is Boss’ Guard series: They can be expensive but they last and are supple enough so that you can do fine work without constantly doffing them.


  6. Robert V says:

    Forgive me for sounding negative, but how can one believe in maker culture and at the same time embrace a device, which I believe is one of the largest violators of the maker bill of rights?

    1. Willowbl00 says:

      Oh, it’s jailbroken and riddled with cracks from doing handstands with it in my pocket. It’s serving its purpose for this round. Contemplating what the next round will be, and what to do with the parts from then one when it finally fails me.

  7. Gareth Branwyn says:

    Yes, I think you can. The beauty of life is that you can do all sorts of things, and most of us are riddled with contradiction (and that’s not always a bad thing). I don’t know a single soul who’s completely free of devices and technologies in their lives that in some way don’t “violate the makers Bill of Rights.” I wouldn’t want any of them to stop doing the making, the open-sourcing, the whatever they’re doing out of some sort of shame or to give up on “maker culture” ’cause they haven’t reached some sort of technological openness singularity. And the fact that people have done so much with the iPhone, with making it their own, shows that people will always use their ingenuity to route around closed systems.

  8. volkemon says:

    @Jake von Slatt-
    Thanks! Wasn’t there a blue haired cutie in playboy recently? (Forgive the late reply,I was remiss in not following this post when it went off page one :{ )

    I too may admit now, without blushing, my fetish for gloves :) There is a box in the bus, shop, home…

    Thanks for the link, but the nitrile ‘blue’ gloves are about the thickest for me for fine control. I dont mind going through a few pair of latex due to heavy use, I often don them 3-4 layers thick when quick layer shedding in in order. Great for epoxy and paint work. The only thing that causes discomfort is long term (1+hr) use of a size too small, or too many layers. Causes odd tendon(?) pain in the back of my hands. FWIW.

    And hey, if ‘grease on the hands’ is a desireable look, how better to show it than a five fingered ‘whiteboard’?

    And thoughts of how our society glorifies sexy blue haired women..wasn’t Marge in Playboy recently? :)

  9. volkemon says:

    D’oh! Caught in the small screen…thought I had erased that last line….

    We REALLY need an edit function in comments…arrrrrgh!

  10. Larry says:

    Reblogged this on larrymade.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at garstipsandtools.com.

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