- The Maker Movement
When I talk about the maker movement, I make an effort to stay away from the word “inventor”—most people just don’t identify themselves that way. “Maker,” on the other hand, describes each one of us, no matter how we live our lives or what our goals might be. We all are makers: as cooks preparing food for our families, as gardeners, as knitters. Although this view may not be part of mainstream thought, there once was a time when most Americans commonly thought of themselves as tinkerers. Tinkering used to be a basic skill, and you could get a little bit more out of life than the average person if you had good tinkering skills—if you could fix your own car, for example, or improve your home or make your own clothes. I think we lost some of that over the decades, but I also think it is coming back, for a lot of reasons. While people today may not treasure this ability out of the same sense of necessity as they once did, they are finding their lives enriched by creating something new and learning new skills.
Make magazine, which I founded in 2005, harkens back to the magazines that hit their peak in the mid-20th century, like Popular Mechanics, which had the attitude, if it’s fun, why not do it? Such publications often helped people to start a hobby and learn new skills. Moreover, they helped the new hobbyist find a community of likeminded tinkerers to talk with about it.
Maker Faire, which started in the Bay Area in 2006, a year after the magazine, expanded this idea of learning and community and created a space where readers of the magazine could get together to extend the conversation. At the Faire, a maker could put an object they created up on a table and have people ask them about it. Having that kind of conversation with a range of people is the essence of the magazine, of the Faires—and perhaps of the whole movement. The excitement of making things extends to kids as well. Many begin at a young age to explore and develop things they really care about, so we have made the Faires a family-oriented event that features many exhibits by younger makers. We also hold workshops and competitions for people of all ages. Since the first Maker Faire held in San Mateo, California, we have held Faires in Austin, Texas; Detroit, Michigan; and New York City. The most recent New York City event, the World Maker Faire, attracted over 100,000 attendees. In response to requests from fans, we have begun to hold mini-Maker Faires in cities around North America. [End Page 11]
The Maker Movement
The maker movement has come about in part because of people’s need to engage passionately with objects in ways that make them more than just consumers. But other influences are in play as well, many of which closely align the maker movement with new technologies and digital tools. Makers at their core are enthusiasts, such as those engaged in the early days of the computer industry in Silicon Valley. We’ve lost sight of that aspect of the computer industry because the devices they create have become so widespread and people no longer need to be enthusiasts to use them. But those makers in the early days of the computer industry were essentially playing with technology. They didn’t know what they wanted computers to do and they didn’t have particular goals in mind. They learned by making things and taking them apart and putting them back together again, and by trying many different things.
Today’s makers enjoy a level of interconnectedness that has helped to build a movement out of what in the past would have been simply a series of microcommunities defined by a particular hobby or activity. Although the movement is largely driven by the Internet, events like Maker Faire allow people to mix with many different groups. People take a little bit from here and a little bit from there, and the resulting mash up leads to some...