Reflection on Class
I will dub this day, an ice day. It is much like a snow day, only due to ice. I can remember an ice day from when I was in 5th grade. We “sledded” down a hill on road in our subdivision. From what I understand, on this more recent ice day, we got to take apart toys. To maintain a tiny bit of continuity in these posts and connect them as tangibly as possible to class goings-on, I am going to tell you a story from my very long history of taking things apart.
Pens. How many parts do you think make up a pen? The answer is usually 5: the body, the tip, the grip, the ink cartridge, and the spring. Those are the parts you can take out, separate, and easily put back together. However, I am sure the actual body has a few more parts that do not fall into that ‘easy to put back together category’. It is hard for me to hold a pen without taking it apart, despite the fact I know what I will find.
Okay, so this isn’t a very interesting story. The thing it makes me realize is that despite my love of taking things apart, I am only willing to take minimal risk in destroying the object. If I took the body apart, I may not be able to use the pen again. I have could have three other pens in my bag and still stop at separating out those 5 general parts. Why that disinclination? For me, it is a fear of breaking something permanently and a fear of failing.
I have no doubt that fear of failing in prevalent in my life. I also have no doubt that it holds me back, causes unnecessary stress, and that I would learn more from failure than from success. This is the reason that normalizing taking things apart, normalizing embracing the failure, and eradicating that fear is so important. Let’s say I took apart the body of the pen and couldn’t put it back together. Even though I lost a good pen, I bet I would learn more than if I had let the fear of failure stand in my way. It isn’t just about taking things apart, it is about the value of learning by failing. It is not a bad thing to fail. By taking things apart in an environment where failure is not only accepted, but encouraged, we create a precedent that it is okay to fail.
Reflection on Readings
After reading the beginning of the Maker Movement Manifesto, my first thought was “Can I afford to learn to make, let alone be a maker?”. In my case, that answer is probably. However, I do not believe my answer to be universal. I may be able to “Tool Up” at a makers space for the fee of 40 dollars a day for a single day. Others may be able to afford a yearly membership, but the majority will not.
For profit makers spaces are the most confusing space of those outlined in Free to Make. It is difficult for me to image an instance when a for-profit business’s first concern was not making a profit. Reconciling that profit driven business platform with the maker movement’s ideals seems difficult. I can barely wrap my head around the American Dream makers stories and the concept that you should make to make a profit on your own through stores, rather than the make to make idea. That being said, I have nothing against those who want to profit from their innovative ideas. I just don’t think it should be an expectation or diving force of the movement. There seems to be something off about the for profit business, that is not present in the case of a successful etsy store. Where a non profit wants to spread its resources to as many people as possible to help them, a for profit wants to bring in as many people as possible that will pay to use their resources to help the company thrive. That is an absolute statement, which I do not like. I use it to drive home a concern, rather than as a fact. What is comes back to is the concern about funding and ability to come up with that funding to make?
Underlying this subtle pass over of funding, is the assertion that making does not only bring out our interest in learning, but essential to making us feel whole. In short, making is a super important aspect of what makes us human. I am good up until the point that the manifesto starts putting caveats on our making. To me, suggesting that making in isolation is not enough. You cannot be the hermit in the woods, making what you need, without sharing your processes with the world and passing on your knowledge. Is that person not a maker or is it the lack of necessity in making that makes you a maker?
One very quintessential tidbit that came up in Free to Make was the hope that people would come up with their own projects. People who live with all these limitations (be they financial, locational, or simply a limit of knowledge) taking the initiative to make. The spread of more projects that actual people with genuine circumstance come up with to participate in the maker movement, I believe, are most valuable to the spread of the movement. I mean this relative to the option of formal makers spaces, which may not exist in rural areas. In more maker-centric areas, these are excellent places to come together and learn, especially when they make of point of being inclusive and accommodating to all. Lacking that makers space, the only thing these individual maker projects are missing is a space to collectively work on them. So….
Thank goodness for libraries, who do not charge their patrons to learn, tool up, or participate. This goes back to the discussion of relative ability though. For instance, I can afford a day at the maker space and my own equipment, does not mean another person will have the same opportunity. One library may have multiple 3D printers and laser cutters, but another may be pressed to supply even the most basic of tools. I think this is one reason why the open source concept is so very important. The Free to Make book suggests that idea can apply equally to code as to hardware design. To me this means, you can open source just about anything. The more pressing concern is who will? The non profit makers spaces whose goal is spreading the movement will, while the for profit spaces will make more if people using their space must buy a design as well as the other fees, may not. One main tenant of the Manifesto is sharing. While it does not seem like to be rampantly embraced, it still remains of super high import to make the making accessible to anyone who wants to participate and learn.
The good news for libraries with less access to technology are things like Squishy Circuits. Our reading about them from this week does not even require you actually buy a kit. Instead it suggests a recipe for conductive play dough that you can make with ingredients from your kitchen and a few cheap pieces from a hobby shop. I really love this project for two reasons. One, you are learning a very cool thing about electricity. Two, it appeals to both the aesthetic artsy side and the efficient science-y side of things. Not that they are mutually exclusive. However, for a child who is very artsy, the project makes science more accessible (and vise-versa). It is a very accessible project from a variety of angles, including price and interest. In my opinion, that makes it a very special project
* Note to self, suggest to Kristin a project or class warm up where we take projects that have certain flaws and try to make them more accessible.