The Maker Movement has raised great expectations towards its potential for tackling social inequalities by mediating technology-related skills to everybody. Are maker spaces new players for social inclusion in digital societies? How can this potential impact be framed? While scientific discourse has so far identified broad value and impact dimensions of the Maker Movement, this article adds empirical insight into the potential for tackling social inequalities. The study is based on 39 interviews with makers and managers of maker initiatives and ten self-reporting surveys filled in by maker initiative managers throughout Europe, which have been analyzed qualitatively. We found four main domains in which makers address social inclusion: First, by mediating skills and competences not only in the field of digital technologies but in the broader sense of empowering people to "make" solutions for encountered problems. Second, we found that makers actively strive to provide democratized access to digital fabrication and the knowledge on how to use them. Third and fourth, we found different ambitions articulated by makers to change society and social practices towards a society providing better opportunities for individuals. As an entry point for further research and actions, we derived a maker typology that reflects the diverse and various types of relationships to be found in the maker community. This typology could be used for exploring further collaborations between social actors and the Maker Movement. We conclude with an outlook on potential trajectories of the Maker Movement and specify which could influence the inclusion of marginalized persons.
ICT has already revolutionized content creation and communications. In principle, today, everybody with Internet access, the right skills and equipment can produce digital content composed of virtual "bits" and make it instantly available across the globe. The same is now happening to manufacturing for everyone with access to tools like 3D printers. This inter-changeability of bits and atoms is being called the maker movement, which started as a community-based, socially-driven bottom-up movement but is today also impacting mainstream manufacturing through increased efficiencies, distributed local production and the circular economy. The maker movement thus has significant promise for increasing social, economic and environmental sustainability, but is it currently living up to this potential? This paper reports on work undertaken by the European-funded MAKE-IT project has examined this question through detailed qualitative and quantitative empirical research, including ten in-depth case studies across Europe and a detailed examination of 42 maker initiatives at Europe's foremost city-based maker faire, supplemented by extensive secondary research. Despite the maker movement's short history, the overall results provide sound evidence of its important though variable contribution to sustainability thus far. In addition, there is a strong gender dimension showing that females are underrepresented both as users and leaders of maker initiatives, whilst female leaders tend to achieve much higher sustainability impacts than their male counterparts. There is also clear evidence that maker initiatives in close collaboration with each other and other actors in city- and region-wide ecosystems are much more successful in achieving sustainability impacts than others.
The Maker movement represents a return of interest to the physical side of digital innovation. To explore expectations and values within the Maker movement, we applied qualitative research method, interviewing 10 manag-ers of maker initiative as well as 39 makers from eight different countries. The paper analyses how the Maker movement is contributing to a change in production, logistics and supply chains and how it changes the relationship between producer and consumer. Based on the interview data and sup-ported by literature, the study indicates that the Maker movement has the potential to impact producer-consumer relationships in many ways. Making, on a bigger scale would mean producing locally, de-centralised and on-demand. This would have an impact on the logistics and the supply chain. Long transportation routes would be avoided and shorter supply chains would make some of the-in-between vendors obsolete. Makers as prosumers, who produce for themselves, are introducing two growing phenomena: a more personalised relationship between maker and object and personalised products as a form of self-expression.
Diversity and inclusion in the technology sector is increasingly debated , specially in the context of equal opportunities for all and a shortage of experts in many tech related industries. The need to be more inclusive can refer to different age groups, people with diverse culturally and linguistically backgrounds or gender. All in all, ethnic, gender and socioeconomic diversity is not yet at the forefront of fabrication laboratories (FabLabs) agendas for change. This paper aims to contribute to the discussion of diversity and inclusion by primarily elaborating gender relations in FabLabs and, to a lesser extent, discussing age and socioeconomic conditions of makers. Our analysis is based on 39 interviews and the analysis of 55,450 data points extracted from the log files of 3d-printers, CNC milling machines, laser cutters and cutting plotters. This combination of qualitative and quantitative data reveals that, indeed, some machines are used more frequently by men or women. However, the main difference is in absolute numbers, i.e. women are not joining FabLabs for a variety of reasons ranging from uninviting cultures to the lack of role models in technology driven areas in general.