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robertogreco : makerculture   8

Making as an Act of Caring — Medium
"My friend Deb Chachra wrote a great piece ‘Why I am not a Maker’ in the Atlantic last year, about the problems with taking on the identity of a “maker”, especially in tech culture, as it assumes intrinsic superiority to other forms of repair, fixing and especially, care-giving. Around the same time, friend and collaborator Tim Maughan wrote about his journeys through Chinese factories, a deeply moving piece on the conditions and lives of the people who actually make most of the things we use. I believe that such critique that challenges the dominant understanding of the ‘maker culture’ and its implications on labour, geopolitics and consumerism is important and urgent.

On a personal front, Deb and Tim’s essays got me thinking a lot about what ‘making’ means to me, and I realised that my understanding of this term is coloured by Jon, whom I live and work with. It got me thinking about the amount of time and energy Jon spends ‘making’ things. It is the sort of making that requires him to find, forage, build or improvise tools and materials in order to make things work.

From quickly knocking up a set of ‘acrylic chisels’ from waste plastic pieces as a bespoke toolset for gilding, to building an enormous drone with his partner-in-crime Jon Flint, resurrecting his grandfather’s cherished lamp, fixing the neighbour’s bike, reconfiguring his mother’s phone, retrofitting his son’s electronic toys, creating a DIY bioreactor, applying ancient Japanese techniques of Kintsugi as a means of adding the history of repair to his bike, and most recently foraging the city for waste in order to build salvaged prototypes that might help mitigate the shock of climate change. But he is not trained as a carpenter, metalsmith, engineer, or product designer. Nor does he go to makerspaces, he probably feels bit overwhelmed by them. He is an artist and then a designer.

Most importantly, Jon is a maker because, over the years he has developed an uninhibited curiosity for found materials and their potential applications to either fix things or build new things in the future. This deep knowledge of materials embodied within the stuff we use in our daily lives, as well as the numerous tools and techniques of making, is critical to understand the impact the things we use have on our environments. It also generates a pattern of lateral and anticipatory thinking, as he constantly scours the environment looking for materials and tools, anticipating their potential (re)use in an entirely different context. It’s an attitude of mending, helping, and, most importantly, caring, that defies mainstream consumerism.

This sort of an attitude is neither new nor unheard of. There are hundreds of thousands of people who would not call themselves makers but would quite easily fit this bill of a ‘maker’. The recently visible projects by such makers include the brilliant Fixperts and Engineering at Home amongst others. These projects and activities are often packaged as ‘fixing’, ‘jugaad, or ‘up-cycling’, and remain on the periphery of the dominant maker-culture discourse. These approaches are often associated with resource stripped individuals and communities (especially Jugaad in India), or some sort of hippie do-gooders. No, they are not just fixing, not just doing some little bodging in the corner, they are mainstream makers. In fact, I would argue that they are more than makers, they are actually care-givers, who steadfastly push back against the dominant philosophy of planned obsolesce.

Maker-carers who may not use 3D printers to make shoes or dresses, but instead embody making as a way of life. They are quietly shaping the ethos and values of a 21st century maker — adaptive, crafty, anticipatory makers who care deeply about the people and environment around them. And this is the sort of making-as-caring that we need much more of. As we head towards increasingly precarious political, social and environmental crisis, we will all need to nurture the capacity to think through materials and the systems that these materials manifest within, so we can find the means to restore, revive, resurrect, rewire, and reimagine the physical world of consumption we are drowning in. Obviously this would mean we will buy less things, but it also means that we will know what we buy and mostly importantly have the skills to adapt and re-appropriate materials and tools for uncertain conditions.

If we are going to idolise makers and create large-scale foundries, incubators and educational programs to inculcate and embrace the love for making, then lets nourish this idea of making as care-giving too, and ensure that the ‘maker-culture’ we build is diverse and inclusive. And in doing so, encourage a relentless inquisitiveness, integrity, and pliancy that it can bring for us, those around us and the environments we live in."
anabjain  jonardern  making  care  caring  caregiving  repair  maintenance  2016  adaptivity  resourcefulness  sfsh  ingenuity  jugaad  consumerism  debchachra  timmanaugh  technology  climatechange  consumption  labor  geopolitics  reuse  recycling  superflux  jonflint  art  design  makers  openstudioproject  lcproject  repairing  mending  fixing  fixperts  engineeringathome  upcycling  makerculture  caitrinlynch  sarahendren  kintsugi 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Assorted Stuff : Wasted Spaces
"When I go to ISTE, I’m mostly looking for interesting and new-to-me ideas for using technology to enhance learning. For adults as well as kids. While you can do much of that inquiry online, there is something about being immersed live in the community that cannot be duplicated digitally.

At the same time I also make it a point to attend sessions by a small group of the same presenters, even if I pretty much know what they’re going to say. Because I also know they are people who will inspire me and jumpstart my thinking in unique ways. One of those people is Will Richardson.

During his ISTE talk, Will compared the very trendy concept of makers spaces with computer labs, saying that schools need a maker culture, not spaces. It was almost a throwaway line, a relatively small point in his talk but also one that got stuck in my warped little mind.

Wiil’s view of maker spaces as the new computer lab* perfectly encapsulates the uneasy, slightly negative feelings I’ve had towards the maker space concept, as the chatter and activity around it has has grown over the past four or five years.

It’s not that I disapprove of the idea of kids as makers. I love it. That’s exactly what school should be. But that’s not how the concept is applied in most schools.

As happened with computing devices, someone’s idea of a “maker space” is set up in a corner of the library, stored in a vacant room, or assembled in a cart rolled between classrooms. With students performing pre-planned activities for a fixed period of time, before returning to their “real” work.

In most schools I’ve observed, maker space is a pull out program for students that we know will pass the spring tests. A reward for completing that real work. An option for kids before or after school, or during lunch. An elective for students with space in their schedule.

Maker space is usually whatever the local advocate says it is. I’m interested in robots, so we buy robot kits. The dollar store had a sale on Popsicle sticks, so we construct towers. The principal bought a 3D printer, so we better use it. (Until the filament runs out and we can’t afford to buy more.)

I’ve seen all of this in schools and more.

A school with a maker culture, however, is one in which students are encouraged to explore all aspects of “maker” that interest them. Music, writing, science, video, coding, drawing, cooking, and many, many more topics that may not even occur to adults who think of “school” in very traditional ways. Auto shop, wood shop, metal shop were maker spaces when I was a kid, all of which have largely been removed from schools in this area.

Once upon a time, all of this was part of a liberal education. Providing kids the opportunity to explore a wide variety of subjects during their K12 years. Making them aware of their options. Preparing them for life, not just for college. I know, it’s an ideal view of school. One that in the real world America of my youth was never perfectly implemented.

That’s exactly what a school built around a maker culture would be. Rather than being a reconfigured computer lab.

*******

*An anachronism that should disappear but only seems to be reconfigured every few years with new devices."
makerspaces  computerlabs  making  makers  schools  education  lcproject  openstudioproject  sfsh  timstahmer  culture  makerculture  cooking  science  woodshop  metalshop  autoshop  drawing  coding  music  writing  teaching  howweteach  classrooms  schooldesign  materials  iste  willrichardson  2016  vi:audreywatters 
july 2016 by robertogreco
What I’m working on lately: Practices of the minimum viable utopia (long) | Speedbird
"In the fusion of each of these three archetypal processes, el Campo de Cebada, Godsbanen and Unto This Last, we can see the outlines of something truly radical and terribly exciting beginning to resolve. What can be made out, gleaming in the darkness, is a — partial, incomplete, necessarily insufficient, but hugely important — way of responding to the disappearance of meaningful jobs from our cities, as well as all the baleful second-order effects that attend that disappearance.

When apologists for the technology industry trumpet the decontextualized factoid that each “tech” job ostensibly creates five new service positions as a secondary effect, what they neglect to mention is that the lion’s share of those jobs will as a matter of course prove to be the kind of insecure, short-term, benefits-lacking, at-or-close-to-minimum-wage positions that typify the contemporary service sector. This sort of employment can’t come anywhere close to the (typically unionized) industrial-sector jobs of the twentieth century in their capacity to bind a community together, either in the income and benefits they produce by way of compensation, in the conception of self and competence they generate in those who hold them, or in the sense of solidarity with others similarly situated that they generally evoke.

At the same time, though, like many others, I too believe it would be foolish to artifically inflate employment by propping up declining smokestack industries with public-sector subsidies. Why, for example, continue to maintain Detroit’s automobile manufacturers on taxpayer-funded life support, when their approach to the world is so deeply retrograde, their product so very corrosive environmentally and socially, their behavior so irresponsible and their management so blitheringly, hamfistedly incompetent? That which is falling should also be pushed, surely. But that can’t ethically be done until something of comparable scale has been found to replace industrial manufacturing jobs as the generator of local economic vitality and the nexus of local community.

So where might meaningful, valued, value-generating employment be found — “employment” in the deepest sense of that word? I have two ways of answering that question:

- In the immediate term, I believe in the material and economic significance of digital fabrication technologies largely using free and open-source plans, deployed in small, clean, city-center workshops, under democratic community control. While these will never remotely be of a scale to replace all the vanished industrial jobs of the past, they offer us at least one favorable prospect those industrial jobs never could: the direct production of items immediately useful and valuable in one’s own life. Should such workshops be organized in such a way as to offer skills training (perhaps for laid-off service-sector workers, elders or at-risk youth), they present a genuinely potent economic and social proposition.

There are provisos. The Surly Urbanist correctly suggests that any positions created in such an endeavor need to be good jobs, i.e. not simply minimum-wage dronework, and my friend Rena Tom also notes that the skills training involved should be something more comprehensive than a simple set of instructions on how to run a CNC milling machine — that any such course of instruction would be most enduringly valuable if it amounted to an apprenticeship first in the manual and only later the numeric working of materials. I also want to be very clear that, per the kind of inclusive decision-making processes used at el Campo de Cebada, such a workshop would have to be something a community itself collectively thinks is worth experimenting with and investing in, not something inflicted upon it by guileless technoutopians from afar.

- In the fullness of time, I believe that the use of relatively high-technology techniques to accomplish not merely the local, autonomous production of everyday objects, furnitures and infrastructures, but their refit and repair, will come to be an economically salient activity in the global North. In this I see a congelation of several existing tendencies, logics or dynamics: the ideologically-driven retreat of the State from responsibility for stewardship of the everyday environment; the accelerating attrition and degradation of the West’s dated and undermaintained infrastructures, and their concomitant need for upgrade or replacement; increasing belief in the desirability of densifying urban infill; the rising awareness in the developed world of jugaad, gambiarra and other cultures of repair, reuse and improvisation; the emergence of fabricator-enabled adaptive upcycling; the circulation of a massive stock of recyclable componentry (in the form of obsolescent structures as well as landfill-bound but effectively nondegradable consumer items), coupled to the emergence of a favorable economics of materials recovery; broader experience with and understanding of networked, horizontal and leaderless organizational structures; the creation of a robust informational commons, including repositories of freely-downloadable specifications; and finally the clear capability of online platforms to facilitate development and sharing of the necessary knowledge, maintain some degree of standardization (or at least harmonization) of practice, suggest sites where citizen repair might constitute a useful intervention, and support processes of democratic decision-making."
utopia  2014  adamgreenfield  openstudioproject  pocketsofresistance  resistance  institutforx  godbanen  aarhus  madrid  spain  españa  elcampodecebada  untothislast  london  making  makerculture  economics  production  fabrication  democracy  labor  upcycling  collectivism  collaboration  repair  furniture  agency  denmark  davidharvey  postcapitalism  sharingeconomy  sharing  libraries  lcproject  community  communities  cooperatives  anilbawa-cavia  renatom  airbnb  couchsurfing  kintsugi  seams  minimumviableutopia  douglasmeehan  idealism  practicalism  jeremyrifkin  self-reliance  murraybookchin  jugaad  fabbing  gambiarra  fixing  maintenance  cv  repairing 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Learning From Legos - NYTimes.com
"WHEN I was a boy, my father, an architect, attempted a no-toy policy, with the significant exception that he’d buy my brother and me almost anything — any birthday, holiday or restless rainy Saturday — as long as it was Lego.

And so, if I needed a gun, I made it with Legos. The same with a walkie-talkie. And a lie detector. And all the life-size artifacts — let’s face it, mostly weapons — that were then my heart’s desire. Plus every scale-model spaceship, supertruck, planetary fortress, recombinant Tyrannosaurus and transforming robot.

These days Lego — with its namesake movie’s opening weekend box office of $69 million, and with global sales revenue tripling, recession-proof, between 2007 and 2012 — appears to be something more than just a Danish construction toy based on snap-together plastic bricks. Some of the film’s success comes from the charm of its intrepid construction worker hero and goth-ninja heroine, both remarkably expressive despite the limitations of Lego figurines’ cylindrical heads and hands.

But the film’s celebration of adaptive improvisation and spontaneous mythmaking also resonates deeply with our current moment of so-called maker culture. Thanks to new rapid-prototyping technologies like computer numerical control milling and 3-D printing, we’ve seen a convergence between hacker and hipster, between high-tech coding and the low-tech artisanal craft behind everything from Etsy to Burning Man.

Whether it’s Google’s first server rack having been made of Lego-like bricks (pragmatically cheap, heat-resistant and reconfigurable) at Stanford in 1996, or the programmable Lego bricks developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Architecture Machine Group (later the Media Lab where, no coincidence, my father worked), Lego is literally built into the computational and architectural history of maker culture.

And it is, in a special way, an architectural history. “A small interior world of color and form now came within grasp of small fingers,” wrote Frank Lloyd Wright about his 9-year-old self in a 1943 autobiographical sketch. “These ‘Gifts’ came into the gray house” and “made something live here.” These were the famous Froebel Blocks, educational wooden building blocks in systematic shapes and sizes developed in the 1840s by Friedrich Froebel, the inventor of kindergarten.

“The smooth shapely maple blocks with which to build, the sense of which never afterward leaves the fingers; so form became feeling. These primary forms were the secret of all effects,” Wright recalled, “which were ever got into the architecture of the world.” Wright’s son John would complete the circle, inventing in 1916 the construction toy that came to be known as Lincoln Logs.

Architectural historians have sought origins for Wright’s innovative organic architecture — his long horizontals and pinwheel plans — in the geometries of his toys, even reconstructing his early house designs using the Froebel Blocks themselves.

I suspect that the connection isn’t that literal. But it is certainly primal, and visceral, to do with the idea of making and unmaking, and the complex relationships of parts to wholes, and brokenness to wholeness.

Once, detouring through a parking-lot flea market, I stumbled across some Froebel Blocks from Wright’s era, stacked as tightly and delicately as the dovetail joints of their original wooden box. Froebel Blocks are collectible antiques, but these were flea-market finds and not auctioneers’ goods because they had been methodically defaced by years of scribbled arabesques in Magic Marker, in a child’s hand.

I discovered that these lines traveled continuously from block to block, and that by carefully aligning the distinctly colored arcs and loops of the markings, I could reconstruct all the arrangements into which the blocks had been built — those magic marks the inadvertent blueprints for a forgotten memory palace.

I remember the fugue of that reconstruction, low on the ground below a flea market table. I remember the astonishing intimacy of visiting a stranger’s childhood, and how that intimacy somehow caused me to delay actually buying this treasure. I circled the flea market, and returned to find it gone.

Maker culture, like Lego, is about loss. All building-block toys are about appearance and disappearance, demolition and reconstruction. Maker culture, for all its love of stuff, is similarly a culture of resourcefulness in an era of economic scarcity: relentless in its iterative prototyping, its radically adaptive reuse of ready-made objects, its tendency to unmake one thing to make another — all in a new ecology of economy.

When my brother and I wanted a new toy, we cannibalized whatever we’d made before, which had been made of all the things we’d ever made before that. So of all those years of guns and starships, I have only that Wrightian feeling for form in the fingertips — and the sound, somewhere between rustling and clinking, of a thousand plastic pieces tumbling from an overturned bucket into a disorderly pile, rippling away from a seeking hand.

I remember the last thing I ever made of Lego, far later into adolescence than I should admit. It was a robot that, thanks to double-jointed hinges, could continually reconfigure itself without being disassembled. And in this sense it was anti-Lego, capable of being remade without being unmade. I knew that it was the most I could ever do in the medium, and the end of an era. It drifted back into that bucket.

A quarter-century later I saw the same bucket opened and overturned by a young nephew. And there, like a time traveler, was this same robot. Mostly just its legs, standing Ozymandias-like in a pile of bricks. I reached for it, but not faster than my nephew, who, recognizing an accretion of especially useful pieces, instantly dissolved it with his hands. One of Wright’s secrets of all effects must be this: Because nothing comes from nothing, and nothing goes entirely out of the world, you have to take things apart if you seek to put everything together."
2014  thomsdemonchaux  making  makerculture  resourcefulness  lego  invention  franklloydwright  froebelblocks  froebeltoys  building  construction  unmaking  dissolution  prototyping  adaptivereuse  reuse  scarcity  materials  toys  play  appearance  disappearance  reconstruction  ecology 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Critical Making - Hertz
"Critical Making is a handmade book project by Garnet Hertz that explores how hands-on productive work ‐ making ‐ can supplement and extend critical reflection on technology and society. It works to blend and extend the fields of design, contemporary art, DIY/craft and technological development. It also can be thought of as an appeal to the electronic DIY maker movement to be critically engaged with culture, history and society: after learning to use a 3D printer, making an LED blink or using an Arduino, then what?

The publication has 70 contributors ‐ primarily from contemporary art and academia ‐ and its 352 pages are bound in ten pocket-sized zine-like volumes. The project takes the topic of DIY culture literally by printing an edition of 300 copies on a hacked photocopier with booklets that were manually folded, stapled and cut. Academic publishing is at a point in history where it deserves to be questioned, and this project proposes that a small-scale run on a photocopier by one person can have more impact than an academic monograph from a major university press.

The 300 finished copies were primarily given away for free to project contributors, individuals and institutions important to them. Some of the handmade copies were traded for reviews, photographs, videos, lectures and were given to library archives. As of February 2013, approximately twenty hardcopies exist, and the project is exploring wider distribution formats that challenge the medium of academic publishing."

[See also: http://we-make-money-not-art.com/archives/2013/01/critical-making.php
http://theengineinstitute.org/critical-making-a-crowdsource-zine
http://www.viddler.com/v/d2de65a2?secret=103681001 ]
art  books  criticism  magazines  criticalmaking  making  garnethertz  via:ablerism  diyculture  glvo  openstudioproject  academia  arduino  learning  technology  society  makerculture 
march 2013 by robertogreco
27c3: Your Infrastructure Will Kill You (en) - YouTube
"The past century our infrastructure has seen both massive expansion and heavy centralization. When it fails, it fails big -- this is the reality of our modern interconnectedness. We live in a world of crumbling bridges and bankrupt states, and our infrastructure will kill us. The people we're relying on to keep us safe are trying to accomplish long-term risk management with short-term thinking. So, what now? We can't opt out, but we can become more resilient, and we can start thinking about risk differently.

In this talk, we'll look at threat modeling in the real world, six ways to die, failing states, that big party in the desert, the failure of the humanitarian project, algae and the U.S. military, large-scale natural disasters, the power grid, and many other things. The problems we face are big in every sense of the word -- they involve some of the biggest things we've ever built -- but the solutions may not be. Can non-governmental networks step up when governments fail…"
makermovement  makerculture  networks  government  energy  risk  resilience  inefficiency  efficiency  2011  infrastructure  elanorsaitta 
november 2012 by robertogreco
More thoughts on writing and making | Design Culture Lab
"Unstable. Shifty. Unreliable.

Yes please!

I love that people and our words are all those things. As I replied to Peter, and would say to Matt, I prefer the sense of potential that comes from this kind of material and making.

It’s less prescriptive. Less efficient. Less technological. Less machinic.

More space to become something, someone else."

"I don’t mean to romanticise words and writing. And I don’t mean to suggest they are divorced from technology or machines or even code.

By identifying what is included in our definitions of making or Making–and asking what is excluded–we might, as Ben Highmore writes in the introduction to The Everyday Life Reader, be able to “find new commonalities and breathe new life into old differences.”

And I’m pretty sure there’s lots more to be thought and said about what gets made, how, when and where it gets made, and by whom it gets made."

[Follow-up to: http://www.designculturelab.org/2012/02/26/hi-my-name-is-anne-i-make-stuff-with-words/ ]
materials  technology  craft  text  benhighmore  everydaylife  patrickness  robertcreeley  poetry  jwarton  peterrichardson  mattjones  makerculture  makers  making  writing  2012 
march 2012 by robertogreco
Hi. My name is Anne. I make stuff with words. | Design Culture Lab
"I’m interested in words as materials for making, and in the written word as an artefact or thing that has been made. I’m also interested in why words (or the written word as distinguished from books) are generally not considered part of “Maker culture.”

Barry’s point was that Maker culture is specifically concerned with hardware, and since I think this definition is generally accepted then words-as-materials have no place there. If Making is about problem-solving, then creative writing has no place there either."

"So, does this mean that if the primary goal of (creative) writing is expression, the only way it can be incorporated into Maker culture is to use words explicitly for problem-solving, or the production of (cultural) solutions? How, exactly, does that differ from aesthetic goals–and especially if we do not distinguish between aesthetics and ethics?"

[Follow-up post here: http://www.designculturelab.org/2012/03/01/more-thoughts-on-writing-and-making/ ]
2012  peterrichardson  knowledge  discourse  glenfuller  kiostark  erinkissane  giovannitiso  tomhenderson  sallyapplin  design  materials  makerculture  makers  making  expression  comments  wordsmithing  writing  annegalloway  ethics  aesthetics  digitalsertão  expandingtext  stackingwords  telescopictext 
march 2012 by robertogreco

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