Reflection on Class
It doesn’t matter what your doing in a makers space. If I have learned anything in the past weeks in the Secret Lab, it is that the act of simply being in the space is half the battle of becoming a maker. I had previously discounted the importance of sharing as a part of being a maker. The more I am in class and in that creative space, the more I realize that I was missing a key element. Even if you are not the one making and sharing, you are there. You are experiencing making, simply by being in the space, being an observer of the process, and being a sounding board for others projects.
Even overhearing conversations can be a form of sharing. Last week, I was in a severely uninspired state. Then I heard a classmate talking about their final Arduino project – cue a minor breakdown about not having any plans for that – and the very cool wearable they were figuring out how to create. While, I should note, using another person as a sounding board for ideas and best materials. Hearing the enthusiasm in their voice and the excitement over the project, lit a tiny little spark in me. A few days later, I had figured out (finally!) a project that made me just as enthusiastic and excited as my classmate.
Most importantly, I think sharing one of the best ways to help spread the maker movement beyond its current community. To become involved in something, you have to know it exists. To become inspired to do something, you have to know what is possible. To become engaged in the movement, you have to know what it stands for. All of these things can be accomplished through the act of sharing.
Reflection on Readings
There seemed to be two main themes coming out of this weeks readings. One, comes from The Next Black. The others stem from a concern I had while reading about the MAKE Media Kit 2016, that was confirmed by Leah Buchley and Innocent Experiments.
I found the concept of anticipating the needs of the industry to be very refreshing. It seems that often some part of any movement is falling behind. It was especially interesting to see the investigation did not stop at the idea that they simply need ways to develop more sustainable clothing. Instead, the documentary and the industry interviewees contemplated questions that went to the heart of the issue. They are not thinking about simply adding sustainable practices, but transforming the industry itself.; the concept is not considered something new to pursue, but what is actually next for the industry.
In the rush towards innovation, it is not abnormal for groups to be overlooked. Take the STS’s push for extroversion in the postwar era. Despite the evidence at the time that introverts were the more creative group, they were overlooked by the selection process. This is a phenomenon that continued into the standardized testing period. The fact that a student does not perform well on tests may have very little impact on their ability to be a good scientist. We know it has no impact on their ability to be a maker – it is something everyone can do. Yet, the maker movement’s focus on STEM and science is most likely exclusionary to groups (women, those who fail standardized tests, underrepresented groups) who have been told they have not future in those types of subjects. I see the maker movement as having the potential to make room and encourage everyone. So, it was a surprise to see that the organization that comes up first in a Google search about making was so one dimensional.
I was shocked by the MAKE Media Kit – shocked. It was so unbearably braggy, especially about reaching the entire global maker community. This seems entirely unfounded when you see their statistics and realize that more than double their participants are men and practically the entirety are college educated. Can a company claim to bring together the entire world when it only represents (at most) the affluent male half of it? While there were not statistics about the ethnic diversity – we know from other parts of the semester – we can make an educated guess that it is mostly white. Is it possible this stems from the normalcy of boy’s industrious scientific experimentation, like that of Edison? If so, we are telling the same story that the “thrill” of discovery is a purely male phenomenon almost a century later.
Where I was shocked, I was equally enthused by Buchley’s Keynote. It was a relief to know that someone is speaking out about the troubling homogeneity of the make movement and MAKE. Her keynote is a call to arms. A call to arms that hopes to highlight both the troubling trends and need for understanding about their existence. Her idea to move the story away from MAKE’s demographic is one of the most important things. If she is right and there is a direct connection between making and being human, then I think sharing will be more important than ever. Sharing our experience is another part of being human. It is also a part of being a maker. By finding ways to share the movement with under-represented groups, maybe we can begin to change the story. We can change the role of women from the pleased onlookers of the early-twentieth century to something more akin to their male counterparts.
Perhaps if we took the same progressive attitude with which we have approached the problem of sustainability, we could begin to come up with truly innovative ways to approach the lack of diversity problem in the maker movement and demonstrate a better understanding of how to address it. If a big company – like adidas and Patagonia – can devote time and resources to addressing a sustainability problem, perhaps one day they will feel compelled to take action to improve diversity in the maker movement both on a industry and community level. Instead of relying on white manpower of the postwar era to be the future of American discovery, we can begin to look at the intrinsic merit in everyone.