The Industrial Revolution grew out of piecework done at home. The clunky computers of the 1970s fathered our feather-thin devices. Today, the maker community is getting together to use increasingly available tools of factory such as 3D printers to change the world.
The Do-it-Yourself conception is by no means new, yet the Internet’s multiplier effect is increasing a self-awareness feeling among inventors and home “doers”. But what is more important, makers as a whole are proving to be eager to break their confinement, connect the digital and the physical realms and work together for the good of the community.
Digital micro-production centers, where people are able to make (almost) anything, are spreading across the globe. Everywhere, from Nairobi or Manchester, to Jalalabad or Lima, digital production centers are multiplying like spores. There are independent spaces run by volunteers which tend to be like clubs, while others like Noisebridge in San Francisco are open to everybody. Also universities such as Yale, Georgia Tech or Case Western Reserve are opening their own spaces designed for students to make their projects.
Indeed, there are many different models of MakerSpaces. Small, locally owned and operated, like Michigan’s Maker Works; large-scale offering unlimited access to tools for a monthly fee, like the TechShop chain; and, more importantly, an increasing number of middle tier places like Artisan’s Asylum, in Massachusetts.
It seems as if the makers movement is coming to maturity. We are starting to see a trend toward the professionalization of makerspaces and a more active, united community who is regularly meeting face to face to connect and work together.
“The digital revolution needs to materialize,” professor Neil Gershenfeld of MIT said some time ago.
Around a decade ago, he himself designed and built the first Fab Lab in California. Fab Labs are digital fabrication laboratories equipped with state-of-the-art technologies and are aiming at democratizing access to manufacturing and invention. Today there are 350 Fab Labs in the world, spread across 40 countries in all continents and in a variety of settings, from community colleges to science museums.
FAB10BCN: From Fab Labs to Fab Cities
From 2 to 8th July 2014, Barcelona (Spain) hosted the 10th International conference of Fab Labs. The main topic of the FAB10 Barcelona event was the Fab City — that is, the city as the heart of digital and distributed micro-production.
As Tomás Díez, 31-year-old urbanist in charge of the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, Barcelona’s first Fab Lab, puts it “we first threw production out [of the city] to industrial estates. Later, we lost our ability to manufacture and now everything is made in China. We have reached an absurd point where the only thing cities produce is garbage.” But, as he continues: “we are moving towards a kind of technological Middle Ages where cities once again will regain the productive fabric.”
FAB10 Barcelona gathered citizens, industries, governments and experts from all over the world to discuss about three primary themes: digital fabrication, productive cities and emergent communities. It was a week full of workshops, conferences, exhibitions and a symposium to discuss about self-assembly structures, new materials, reindustrialization of cities, crowdfunding projects and collaborative and sharing economy, among other topics.
The FAB10 Conference also held the final of the Global Fab Awards, an initiative created to raise awareness about the innovation within the Fab Lab, makerspace and hackerspace community. This year’s winner was W.afate, a 3D printer created with waste material in Togo for a total cost of around 100 dollars.
Learn Do Share
But don’t worry if you missed this event. Still to come this year are dozens of fairs and get-togethers.
Learn Do Share, formerly known as DIY days, is an initiative promoting global events, publications, labs, and workshops focused on open collaboration and how creativity can be harnessed as an engine for social innovation and civic engagement.
Their internationally itinerant event is free to participants and run by volunteers in the spirit of collaborative culture and it aims at sparking the imaginations of assistants. It has become a forum where those who invent can share ideas and resources to fund, create and spread their work and during 2014 will be expanding to 10 cities in the U.S., Europe and Australia.
Their last event, Learn Do Share NYC, took place on June 12, 13 & 14th and focused on DIY Urbanism, exploring how local communities are embracing DIY culture to change their neighborhoods. Next stop is London on September 5th & 6th 2014 and its main theme will be “Future Cities”. You can check out the programme and get your free ticket here.
World Maker Faire
Also in September, World Maker Faire, the biggest makers gathering in the world, will take place in New York Hall of Science.
The event was first launched in 2006 by Make magazine to “celebrate arts, crafts, engineering, science projects and the Do-It-Yourself mindset” and it showcases the amazing work of electronics and mechanics geniuses, early engineers, Back to the Future-like inventors and artists…
Maker Faire is the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth—a family-friendly festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement. […] It is an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors. All of these “makers” come to Maker Faire to show what they have made and to share what they have learned.
Although this year’s call for makers is still open, this event, held on 20 & 21th September, will surely continue to amaze and gather momentum. And if you can’t make it to NYC during that weekend, don’t fret. Community-based, independently produced events are happening all over the globe — you’ll find a list of upcoming Maker Faires here.
“The do it yourself culture is radically changing the 21st century” said renown maker Lady Ada. “It’s not just the information and videos we have available in sites like iFixit, Etsy, Make, Hack a Day or Adafruit. It is also the feeling of belonging to a community.”
The maker culture fever might be a sign of an increasingly visible desire of people to make things again. “But whatever we do, it should not stop at us,” warns Tomás Díez. “We have to learn ‘to do’ with other people, and learn that, whatever we do, it actually has to have an impact on our neighborhood, in our city or in society as a whole.”