[Cultural Policy Bulletin Vol.6] Maker Movement and Makerspaces Ushering in the Era of Creation Led by Citizens

After a Visit to Maker Faire and Makerspaces in the San Francisco Bay Area

Soon-ju Hwang

Local Intermedia Team Maganer, GyeonGi Cultural Foundation

Civil society has recently run diverse spaces and activities based on the maker movement. Under these circumstances, GyeongGi-do Province, GyeongGi Cultural Foundation and Gyeonggi Content Agency sent their representatives to Maker Faire and makerspaces in the Sans Francisco Bay Area, origin of the maker movement, in order to understand the implications of the maker movement from the perspective of citizens’ creation culture and to explore issues regarding the nature and activities of makerspaces led by the public sector.

Maker Movement Expanding from Geeks’ Party to a Public Culture of Sharing

Geeks are relatively free from conventions and common sense. They discover mistaken thinking, hidden values and principles that those with common sense take for granted. They then try to deal with contradictions and lacks. In this context, geeks are creators and innovators. The maker movement, which has become global and contemporary, focuses on freedom and respect, thus allowing ‘creative geeks’ to share their dreams and practices. The project group ‘Fly Your Freak Flag High’ (FYFFH) says in their manifesto that geeks can change the world. Every person is independent, special and unique. We are just different from each other and nobody is wrong. Such combination of differences leads to growth.

The contemporary maker movement is spreading from lonely geeks (amateur engineers, artisans and technicians) to civil creators (everyone making something). In addition, the movement is forming a wide culture of sharing. Such a culture is characterized by the sharing of technology and space and the use of open knowledge and sources. It is a response to mass production, standardization, generalized commercialistic supply and passive consumption led by huge capital. Now, the act of making something and creating new products are going beyond a few people’s monopoly and privilege to become a cultural and democratic movement of sharing.

Let’s Usher in the Era of Creation Led by Citizens with the Maker Movement

In the era of local cultures’ decentralization and autonomy, what is the most essential would be the growth of ‘cultural citizens’ who constitute a driving force behind such cultures. As prosumers who belong to the cultural middle class, cultural citizens should emerge as new owners of their local community’s space, content, humanware and networks. The public sector should support cultural citizens’ self-sufficiency, self-support and self-reliance with minimum supply. Meanwhile, intermediate support organizations should help civil society’s networking in diverse ways while also forming an environment of collaboration and cooperative governance. Moreover, the direction of cultural policy should change from its existing top-down one to grassroots one which consists in enabling citizens to making products themselves, cooperate with each other and engage in onsite networking. In other words, it is time to enrich, both qualitatively and quantitatively, spaces, content, humanware and networks supporting diverse creative activities in order to allow citizens to improve the value of their own life and happiness.

Origin of Maker Faire: Maker Faire Bay Area

Maker Faire is a ‘fair where people exhibit what they make.’ It started in the San Francisco Bay Area in the US in 2006. Today, the fair is held over 170 times every year as big and small events in 44 countries around the world. It has a variety of participants including those who make something, educators, authors, artists, students, engineers, technology lovers, crafters and those from relevant clubs. Calling themselves “makers,” they participate in Maker Faire in order to share their creative products and the results of the process of making them. Maker Faire Bay Area is known as the world’s first and largest flagship Maker Faire. Other famous fairs are held in New York, Shenzhen, Nantes and Rome. In 2018, Maker Faire Bay Area took place at the San Mateo County Event Center for three days (including the preliminary exhibition day), with over nine sections and over 800 exhibited works and booths.

⓵ Maker South: Meet alternative vehicles of a new concept. This outdoor exhibition space is focused on events presenting moving works. Such ‘moving works’ include works applying kinetic art (artworks using physical/technical principles) and robotics, a racing card contest, a strange bicycle with a completely different principle of drive and a bubble rocket.

⓶ Maker Expo: This space is focused on up-do-date electronic devices, 3D printing and digital product makers. Its main exhibitors are maker-related businesses (e.g. Arduino, Microchip Technology and Kickstarter) and their booths exhibit drones, physical computing, 3D printing and digital fabrication. The space mostly displays technology by digital makers and businesses and sells products as well.

⓷ Learning Lab: This lab has works by students and young makers and experience zones. It is focused on new works of all genres and types. It is mostly composed of individuals’ booths. The lab provides visitors with demonstrations and experiences of making products in diverse categories including hand-made 3D printing, pottery and origami. Its participants are institutions and museums running educational makerspacs.

⓸ Play Land: A new space where visitors enjoy moving things. New makers exhibit their works such as automatically moving robots’ racing, a new toy controlled manually, huge balloon tower, hula hoop and robots.

⑤ Maker West: A space for robots, crafters, artisans and artists. It has a booth for robots, San Francisco Bazaar, a large moving robot and the Crucible.

⑥ Stage Center: A speech stage prepared by leaders of the maker culture

⑦ Make Town: Let’s learn what ‘make’ is all about. It has a space for the maker community, a performer playing music with pedals and Google’s AIY sales booth.

⑧ Home Grown Village: This space suggests sustainable and technology-oriented urban agriculture. Elements of such sustainable agriculture includes new farming techniques, new food (e.g. cheese, jam and chocolate) and technology (e.g. metal art and steam train).

⑨ Mixed Reality: The reality is expanded by virtual reality technology. This space exhibits VR and AR equipment and 3D images.

Providing things to see and experience that can be enjoyed by everyone, Maker Faire mostly attracts family visitors. Makers explain how they make their products in a detailed way to actively share them with others, thus leading to diverse onsite discussions. The most rewarding moment for the makers was when their works (fruits of their creative ideas and energy) were recognized and shared by someone. They also commercialized and sold their products. In particular, agricultural products, handicrafts and 3D printed products were particularly popular.

A Museum with Children’s Fab Lab: Bay Area Discovery Museum

This museum, which is the result of remodeling a US military base, is running the world’s first fab lab for infants. With its education philosophy of helping children solve problems on their own and develop creativity, the museum has an art studio, fab lab, makerlab, woodworking space and science lab. At the museum’s fab lab, children do simple drawings with a tablet PC and they transform their drawings into prototypes with a laser cutter and 3D printer. Conducting projects using expensive equipment, which are unavailable at school, the space provides children with an experience of making decisions independently, learning through trials and errors and giving shape to their ideas. Educators specializing in fab labs are there for them. This is a case of applying the fab lab system to a museum’s hands-on learning programs.

A Museum Transformed from a Traditional Museum into a Makerspace: Exploratorium

This science museum was founded by physicist Frank Oppenheimer (brother of Robert Oppenheimer who developed the atomic bomb) in San Francisco in 1969. Its site had been used as a wharf for more than 100 years and it was transformed into a museum after 12 years of preparation and three years of construction. This world-renowned museum attracts on average 4,000 visitors a day and 1.4 million visitors a year. Its hands-on learning-based exhibitions stimulate visitors’ curiosity and develop their creativity with about 650 items regarding science, art and nature. Particularly at the museum’s exhibition development space, researchers make their own research products. Reinterpreting the space from the perspective of makerspaces, it frees itself from modern museums’ style of exhibitions and visits to regard the entire museum as a big warehouse. Here, researchers (makers) carry out (experiment with and apply) research in real time. They then exhibit their research results in the form of exhibited (shared) items. In short, this isn’t an ordinary modern museum that monopolizes knowledge and resources to provide its beneficiaries with exhibition content. Instead, it motivates researchers to carry out research and make products so that they can share their research results with visitors more actively and communicate with them. Such a museum has great implications for Korean museums.

From an Artistic Creation Space to a Makerspace: The Crucible

The Crucible is an analogue creative workshop that enables any form of the fire arts. Entering the space of about 5,000㎡, you are welcomed by heat and loud sounds of hammers and equipment. Founded in 1999 by Michael Sturtz, the space is running public art projects and hands-on programs for adults and children. Over the past 20 years, the Crucible has served as a creative space based on the fire arts while transforming itself into a makerspace that shares its content with the local community in a dynamic way. Its annual budget of 3 million dollars is composed of its own revenue (70%) and donation (30%). It is basically a non-profit space but it is also conducting a variety of for-profit projects. Trying to come up with activities to be shared with the local community, the space launched a bicycle lab. Asked about the mission of the Crucible, Rob Nehring, former sculptor and the space’s manager, said, “Our mission isn’t to make money but to provide society with creativity and inspiration.” The Crucible also filled Maker Faire 2018 with their fire and enthusiasm.

Rob Nehring at the Crucible

A Makerspace for Creative People: Hacker DOJO

This hackerspace is the origin of the online curation platform Pinterest. This is a making and coworking space that was founded in 2009. It is a community of engineers, artists, scientists, activists, entrepreneurs and creative people and a social facility for collaboration. It is composed of a makespace, workspace and electronic technology space and its basic mission is MEET-LEARN-HACK. It is open for 24 hours a day and 90% of its budget comes from its about 250 members. Its main space is shared by everyone and it is divided into diverse independent spaces, thus raising its usefulness. Hacker DOJO stands in contrast to some of Korean makerspaces that only provide a pleasant space and expensive equipment.

Hackers’ Space of ‘Sharing’ and ‘Help’: Noisebridge

Noisebridge is a community running a space for sharing, creation, cooperation, research, development, monitoring and studying. The space is composed of a electronic technology lab, woodshop, mechanical/metal working shop, sewing/handicraft materials space, two classrooms, music making space, conference space and library. There is no staff and all participants cooperate and work voluntarily here. This space is open for everyone and there is no membership fee. Its budget comes from the admission fee and the internal and external donation system. At this year’s Maker Faire Bay Area, Noisebridge became a proud winner of a prize thanks to their equipment of broadcasting games live.

Fab Lab, Bay Area Discovery Museum


Maker Culture:Growing and Helping Together

Sarah LEE, Research and Advisory Associate, Center for Childhood Creativity

at the Bay Area Discovery Museum

Edward Choudhry, Executive Director of the Hacker Dojo


Maker Movement

Jung Hee, Make: Team Manager of Make: Korea Team, Bloter & Media

Editor of Make: and Director pf Maker Faire Seoul

Topography Surrounding the Maker Culture

Sooyon Song, Unmake Lab/Artist

Maker Culture Promoted by Public Institutions Focused on the Case of Korea’s Idea Factory

YU Mansun, Researcher of Gwacheon National Science Museum


Maker Movement and Makerspaces Usheringin the Era of Creation Ledby Ciizens

Hwang Soon-ju, Team Leader of Local Intermedia Team,

GyeonGi Cultural Foundation

The 6th GGCF Cultural Policy Forum

Maker Culture, Smart Citizen

#Bulletin #Bulletin Vol.6 #Cultural Policy #Makerspace #Maker Movement

@Soon-ju Hwang

    • Cultural Policy Bulletin Vol.6

      Publisher/ Sul Won Gi, President of GyeongGi Cultural Foundation

      Editorial Planning/ Office of Cultural Policy GyeongGi Cultural Foundation

      Editors/ Kim Hyun Tae, Kim Sunghwan, Ahn Kyunghwa, Yoon Kahye, Cho Eunsol

      Translation/ Chang Yu Kyung

      Design/ hongdesign

      Printing/ CANA C&P

      Published by/ GyeongGi Cultural Foundation

      Published on July 2018

      ⓒ2018 GyeongGi Cultural Foundation and authors. All right reserved.

  • ggc

    Writer/ GyeongGi Cultural Foundation

    About/ Everything about the GyeongGi arts and culture, GGCF

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