Does the Maker Movement Have An Ideology?

8 07 2014

In the last few years, techno enthusiasts around the world have created “Maker Faires”, gathering where people interested in 3-D printing can show off their things they have made with their gadgets. Some people think that the so-called Maker Movement will usher in an era of radical economic change through the rise of decentralized manufacturing. Others think that the whole thing is a bit over-hyped and the 3-D printing a home will turn out to be the CB radio of our generation: a fun little fad that doesn’t really change the economy.

A Mini Maker Faire in Idaho

Anyway, the Al-Jazeera website recently carried an article by two US grad students in which the Maker Movement is attacked for embodying an individualistic ideology. Jathan Sadowski and Paul Manson wrote:

 The maker movement is born out of, and contributes to, the individualistic, market-based society that has become dominant in our time. More specifically, the movement fits well into what, nearly 20 years ago, the media theorists Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron called “the Californian Ideology.” According to this view, new technologies promise to create a class of high-tech entrepreneurs thanks to their ability to “empower the individual, enhance personal freedom and radically reduce the power of the nation-state.” All while allowing them to ignore or simply design their own way around the established political, economic and legal system. And thus clearing the way for the “unfettered interactions between autonomous individuals and their software” that perpetuate, rather than disrupt, that very system. 

The authors note that people from both the left and the right of the political spectrum have been attracted by aspects of the Maker Movement.

For those who lean to the right, the movement is representative of good old-fashioned economic values and entrepreneurial individualism. “Love the ‘makers,’ deride the ‘takers,’” goes their refrain. For progressives, the maker movement and its “hackerspaces” and “makerspaces” — workshops with tools and space for engaging in making — give an aura of grassroots community building and self-empowerment, from bowling alone (as political scientist Robert D. Putnam characterized our turn-of-the-century decline of social involvement) to making together. For libertarians, the maker movement fits into the common narrative of the “self-made man” who wields market power; only now self-making takes on a more literal meaning.

If you want to learn more about the Maker Movement, Dale Dougherty’s “The maker movement.” innovations 7, no. 3 (2012): 11-14 is a good starting point.

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