[Cultural Policy Bulletin Vol.5] The Future Is for “Makers” Who Are Altruistic Creators
Leader of Maker Ed Korea
Professor at the Department of Visual & Media Design of Sookmyung Women's University
Esteem: Core Value of the Fourth Industrial Revolution
The protestant labor ethics, which appeared with the collapse of the Middle Ages, has dominated our life at school along with capitalism. Consequently, people have been educated to have a job and work from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays. Today, many young Koreans are obsessed with finding a job when graduating from university so they waste their time in preparing for tests such as the civil sevice examination. We still live in an era in which time is money and laziness is a sin. Ironically, we are ushering in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and machines, roberts and artificial intelligence are gradually replacing human work. As a result, humans don’t have to work from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. or go to work every day except weekends. Thanks to such technological development, they are beginning to focus on what only humans can do; they make utmost efforts to be more creative. From the perspective of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, humans fulfilled their “physiological needs” during the Middle Ages and Industrial Revolution, freeing themselves from hunger. Since they reached the Information Age and Fourth Industrial Revolution, they have tried to fulfill the needs of higher levels: “esteem” and “self-actualization” which is at the top of the hierarchy. Since “self-actualization” is not achieved without “esteem,” the Internet and social networking services further encourage their users to be more active online to fulfill their needs for “esteem.” In this context, the Maker Movement is appearing to fulfill such needs for “esteem.”
This movement started with “Makers” meaning “creators.” “Makers” refer to those who make robots by cutting and connecting wire, wood and tires or to those who develop tools equipped with functions that are necessary for daily life. The magazine Make: began to be published in 2005 and Maker Faire was organized to gather together international Makers. Before that, most of them had worked alone. As the Internet developed and social media services such as YouTube facilitated the sharing of videos, they started widening their scope of activities by listening to other Makers’ views and by providing feedback on each other’s technology. At the beginning, Makers concentrated on DIY (do it yourself) but after the launch of the “Maker Movement,” they adopted DIT (do it together) as their motto. As the Maker Movement, which is led by adults who make things in a hackerspace or makerspace with rough tools handling metal, wood and robots, spreads around the world, it also shares its values (creativity, collaboration and sharing) with global citizens.
Usually starting with an offline community space called “makerspace,” Makers form both online and offline communities. They emphasize the amateur spirit so for them, the process of making is more important than a good product and they worship creative ideas. By making things, Makers gradually realize what their true interests are and how they want to be recognized by others. In their community, Makers are stimulated by “peer recognition.” Recognition in their community, where they share each other’s enthusiasm, is more important and satisfactory than money. Peer recognition is the result of an enthusiastic act and that of a socially precious product created in a creative community. In this context, the Maker Movement is mainly about ceaseless “Share” and “collaboration” for peer recognition. The Movement isn’t led by a few leaders and all Makers are equal. In this community, it is “altruistic Makers,” who share their ideas and help others, who enjoy “peer recognition.” Such altruistic Makers then play leading roles in their online and offline community.
A Maker Is Not an Arts and Culture Expert but Everyone
The Maker Movement cannot be explained without discussing DIY first. That is because the Maker Movement is an extension to DIY, particularly from the perspective of the arts and culture. In fact, DIY is found everywhere. Many people study and reinterpret a DIY guide to make something on their own. People, who include designers and artisans, experience a fresh joy of studying and reinterpreting DIY tutorials, who help them making things step by step, and play to make something. DIY, which is pronounced like “dye” in Korea, is an abbreviation of “do it yourself.” It is actually difficult to define DIY. Wikipedia regards DIY as an act and defines it as “building, modifying or repairing things without the direct aid of experts or professionals.” Relevant research papers explain from activists’ perspective that DIY is individuals’ act of combining raw or semi-processed elements in order to produce, modify or recompose something for material possession. The term DIY may have been derived from the process of improving (i.e. repairing and remodeling) houses in 1912. The term was integrated into standard English in the 1950’s. Although the exact origin of the term is still unknown, it is gradually taking an important part in modern life and culture for diverse and concrete reasons.
Makers share their own spirit and philosophy in the Maker Culture represented by John Dewey and the Reggio Emilia approach; a Maker isn’t an empty bowl to fill with knowledge but an individual with diverse rights and unlimited potential. This is what Malaguzzi says “a person with a diversity of a hundred languages.” Makers believe that humans are born as Makers for several seasons. First, as humans are able to use tools, they have the outstanding ability to make something. Second, as social animals, humans have improved their life for generations. Third, humans have unlimited potential. We have assembled DIY furniture and have carried out physical handicraft activities for our home and decoration. Such an act is also an expression of our desire to live a better life. It is true that the Industrial Revolution has kept us from such daily handicraft activities. However, led by political choices or economic needs, we have developed DIY methods and tools to reuse the products of consumption culture. The Internet has added to the existing DIY communities a new form of collaboration called “online community,” thus enabling more people (encompassing professionals, amateurs and laypeople) to have fun by making something in their daily life and leisure time. Just as the new media called “Internet” has influenced the existing social structure, DIY has recently allowed us to redefine ourselves as “Makers” so that we can rediscover ourselves in a certain name that had been hidden and in a new form.
Makers are prosumers who are creators, producers, users and consumers at the same time. In the past, DIYers shared the results of their creation with others and exchanged feedback. The Internet, which emerged as new media, made these DIYers born again as “Makers.” As the greatest beneficiaries of technological development, Makers easily create what they want, ranging from satellites to simple tools at home. Makers also share what they make to accelerate their development. Such a movement is called the Maker Movement.
On one hand, the growth of the Maker Movement actually poses a threat to those with vested interests in creative culture. On the other hand, the movement makes everyone a creator who enriches creative culture, thus spreading this culture. Makers’ basic spirit of “doing it ourselves” has developed into the concept of “doing it together.” This is a utopian concept that consists in leading the existing systems to a better direction. Consequently, Makers mainly influence the existing copyright, product competitiveness and brand value; they redefine and reuse them. To be more specific, Makers have transformed the existing copyright into “Creative Commons,” a license sharing creativity. This license allows them to share and remix what they make. Based on the new technology using this new form of copyright, Makers have also come up with open sources and open-source hardware that enable them to share knowledge at a level higher than that of the existing DIY focused on handicraft. These open sources, open-source hardware and Internet communities’ shared content have led to a culture of remixes which is growing exponentially in diverse areas including image, video and music. The Internet-led culture of sharing content with “anyone” has developed into a “culture where anyone gets and shares something.” This Maker Culture is spreading rapidly.
From “Enjoyable Culture” to “Creative Culture” Where People Make and Share Things
Held in San Mateo every May, Maker Faire Bay Area is the world’s first and largest Maker Faire. With its catchphrase “a festival for families,” the event is a venue where Makers share what they make in diverse fields: technology, food, gardening, art, handicraft and performances. Also known as the family version of Burning Man in the desert, Maker Faire Bay Area gathers together diverse Makers who showcase their creative and artistic projects combining cyberpunk-style technology and art. Meanwhile, Maker Faire Nantes boasts its artistic quality higher than any other Maker Faire. Held in Nantes, France, Maker Faire Nantes shows the potential for combining art and technology to be on humans’ side. The island used to be full of old factories and machines. During the period of Maker Faire, people fly on mechanic elephants, spiders and balloons made of fresh wood, thus proving France’s cultural power. Compared to this French event, Korea’s Maker Faire tends to be limited to exhibitions of robots and science. In Korea, the Maker Movement is associated with new businesses and this is different from the original meaning of the movement.
A Maker is not a person who handles technology but a creative activist who seeks the convergence of art, science and technology. Unlike the past DIYers focused on handicraft, today’s Makers enjoy using engineering technologies such as electrics, electronics, robotics, 3D printing and CNC. They concentrate on linking these technologies to traditional artistic activities like metal, wood, art and handicraft to create something new. Makers use desktop digital tools rather than analogue ones in order to design new projects, carry out prototyping and conduct or make creative projects. Makers obtain information they need for their projects from diverse online DIY communities. At the same time, they share their process of conducting a project and its result at these online communities. They tend to respect such a cultural rule of sharing what they make. They also praise others’ act of sharing and worship creative ideas.
In order to participate in the Maker Movement, you need to first understand and put into practice The Maker Movement Manifesto written by Mark Hatch, founder of Techshop. In other words, you need to “Make” something visible, touchable and usable out of your own ideas. A Maker’s greatest satisfaction comes from “Share” their products, experience and knowledge. Makers need to put altruism into action by sharing what they make with others through this act of “Give.” Makers need to give their own products to others to share their spirit. To make something, they must learn something. Makers basically require such an attitude of ceaseless “Learn.” By learning something new, those who know the joy of making products feel happy and experience the learning process. Makers also make things more easily and conveniently by “Tool Up.” Such a process of “Play” to make things with tools motivates Makers to be interested in making things and to continue their making activities in a sustainable manner. By “Participate” in diverse events including Make Faire, Makers share the maker spirit with other Makers. They also “Support” other Makers through social funding to give something in addition to receiving something. In this way, they make “Changes” by playing a part in this structure of circulation.
The existing arts and culture experts feel threatened by Makers. Nevertheless, as more participants of the Maker Movement become creators capable of producing the arts and culture they want, the influence of the arts and culture grows, generating new opportunities. Future creators will no longer be just experts concentrating on specific fields of art for a long time. Instead, they will be those suggesting their original ideas rather than pursuing elegant esthetics. They will also be entrepreneurs approaching the public and social activists leading DIYers following them. Therefore, arts and culture projects of the future will be focused more on people’s empathy and participation than on an artist’s own artistic world. In this context, the act of sharing, which consists in accumulating artists’ philosophy and people’s empathy for their projects, will dominate the arts and culture scene. As Makers of a new era, we should now ask ourselves how to participate in the Maker Movement and put it into action right now.
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Writer/ GyeongGi Cultural Foundation
About/ Everything about the GyeongGi arts and culture, GGCF
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