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Making for the Sake of Whom? - The Maker Movement’s Potential for Policy-Makers, Researchers, Civil Society and Businesses

Mathias Cuypers, Bastian Pelka, Marthe Zirngiebl, TU Dortmund

The #MakerMovement is growing globally: All over the world new #makerinitiatives emerge. Thus, the question of the Maker Movement’s #societalimpact comes to the fore. For the different societal actors, #policymakers, #researchers, #civilsociety, and #businesses, the Maker Movement offers different potentials as well as risks. For finding the right tool for evaluating a specific initiative’s societal impact, the #MAKE-IT-project has conducted a thorough analysis of 69 #socialimpactassessmentmodels, which can be downloaded here.

Policy Makers

Three policy changes are central: On an individual level, policy-makers have the possibility to impart the making approach socially and culturally. By this, the skills and abilities of individuals might improve increasing their employability. On the macro-economic level, a transformation of the industrial sector could be achieved, by which individual production would replace mass production and strengthen the competitiveness of the European industry. As a third policy, the compatibility of production and consumption with environmental sustainability could be strengthened.

Economic Stakeholders

Making as an activity relates strongly to the creation of products: If a maker creates an object, she*he may also see the potential to sell this object. Thus, a close relationship between the Maker Movement and industry appears as a given.  However, the Maker Movement builds on different values than the traditional business sector. While the former embraces values such as openness and sharing, the latter focuses on competiveness and making a profit. Yet, a stronger collaboration between the Maker Movement and industry could tackle prevalent business models and establish new ways of production.

Two scenarios are crucial regarding the future relationship between the Maker Movement and the economy and both imply the “collision of logics” mentioned above: First, economic actors may absorb the Maker Movement into their Research & Development Departments. This development could enable companies to find new business opportunities by taking up makers’ creativity. Makers will be able to find employment within this new constellation. Second, the Maker Movement might lead to a widespread commons-based peer-to-peer production mode making many companies superfluous.

Research, Facilitation and Consultation

The Maker Movement has become an object of investigation for the research, facilitation and consultation sector. Important topics scrutinized include e.g. the pedagogy of making, the role of digital fabrication in changing work or the economy, as well as technical studies focussing on the machinery. Pressing question include still undefined central terms of the movement, questions of data protection and ethical standards as well as the success of new ideas, e.g. in terms of environmental protection.

However, the Maker Movement has also the potential to influence the sector of research, facilitation and consultation on an organizational level. Within institutions like libraries or schools, the growing uptake of maker initiatives could lead to an increase of digital fabrication skills among teachers and pupils – the latter will become digital fabrication natives. The actual process of research could also be impacted by the Maker Movement by enhancing inter- and transdisciplinary projects: The development of new, innovative ideas would occur much more openly for various actors and institutions of the research sector who would participate by opening up their structures for such activities. Ultimately, the research sector functions as an important supporter for the Maker Movement by raising awareness on the potentials of making for society.

Civil society

If making became mainstream, the role of civil society would change significantly. Instead of remaining consumers, who buy their products in the store, citizens will become “prosumers”, who produce their own goods. This self-reliant production of goods does not only change personal consumption patterns, but could also be a future possibility to secure livelihood.

As mentioned above, the rise of the Maker Movement also raises questions concerning the organizational structure and function of the civil society sector. Traditional civil society organizations are in an interrelationship with the Maker Movement. Both can benefit from another, but both also have to secure their relevance in relation to the respective other as well as other stakeholders. Traditional civil society organizations can on the one hand benefit from the Maker Movement, e.g. if institutions like museums or libraries are able to adopt new pedagogical concepts from the Movement and therewith widening their target group. On the other hand, they also have to be aware of threats, e.g. if online networks become the main mode of communication instead of institutionalized civil society associations.