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Makers as a new work condition between self-employment and community peer-production. Insights from a survey on Makers in Italy

Authors:
  • Elisava Barcelona School of Design and Engineering

Abstract and Figures

Peer production has emerged as a new and relevant way of organising the work of distributed and autonomous individuals in the production and distribution of digital content. Increasingly, the adoption of peer production is taking place not only in the development of digital and immaterial content, but also in the design, manufacturing and distribution of physical goods. Furthermore, Open Design and Open Hardware projects are developed, discussed, manufactured and distributed thanks to digital fabrication technologies, digital communication technologies, advanced funding initiatives (like crowdfunding platforms and hardware incubators) and globally integrated supply chains. This new systemic dimension of work is possible, among other factors, thanks to local facilities like Fab Labs, Makerspaces and Hackerspaces (that can be generally called Maker laboratories), where individuals can gather and form communities with other people, designing and manufacturing together. Generally, these people are referred to as Makers and, while their existence is still an emergent phenomenon, it is widely acknowledged that they could exemplify a new modality of work. We investigated the knowledge, values and working dimensions of Makers in Italy with the Makers' Inquiry, a survey that focused on Makers, Indie Designers and managers of Maker laboratories. This research generated a first overview of the phenomenon in Italy, improving the knowledge of the profiles of Makers; an important step because Makers are usually defined in a very broad way. Furthermore, we investigated their profiles regarding their values and motivations, in order to understand how much Makers engage in peer production or in traditional businesses and whether their working condition is sustainable or not. Finally, we compared these profiles with data regarding traditional designers and businesses and the national context. Given the recent nature of the Maker movement, the focus of this article is on providing a first overview of the phenomenon in Italy with an exploratory analysis and with comparison with existing related literature or national data, rather than contextualising the Maker movement in sociological and political contributions. Far from happening in a void, Italian Makers have a strong relationship with their localities and established industry. Therefore, this is a recent evolution, where Makers work with a broader palette of projects and strategies: With both non-commercial and commercial activities, both peer production and traditional approaches. The activity of making is still a secondary working activity that partially covers the Makers’ income, who are mostly self-employed working at home, in a craft workshop or in a Fab Lab in self-funded or non-commercial initiatives, where technology is not the only critical issue. As a conclusion, we identified current patterns in the working condition of Italian Makers. The data gathered shows some interesting information that, however, could be applicable only to an Italian context. Nevertheless, the survey could be a starting point to compare the same phenomenon in different countries. Therefore, we released the survey files, software and data as open source in order to facilitate the adoption, modification, verification and replication of the survey.
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Peer production has emerged as a new and relevant way of organising the work of distributed and autonomous individuals in the production and
distribution of digital content. Increasingly, the adoption of peer production is taking place not only in the development of digital and immaterial
content, but also in the design, manufacturing and distribution of physical goods. Furthermore, Open Design and Open Hardware projects are
developed, discussed, manufactured and distributed thanks to digital fabrication technologies, digital communication technologies, advanced
funding initiatives (like crowdfunding platforms and hardware incubators) and globally integrated supply chains. This new systemic dimension of
work is possible, among other factors, thanks to local facilities like Fab Labs, Makerspaces and Hackerspaces (that can be generally called Maker
laboratories), where individuals can gather and form communities with other people, designing and manufacturing together. Generally, these
people are referred to as Makers and, while their existence is still an emergent phenomenon, it is widely acknowledged that they could exemplify a
new modality of work. We investigated the knowledge, values and working dimensions of Makers in Italy with the Makers' Inquiry, a survey that
focused on Makers, Indie Designers and managers of Maker laboratories. This research generated a rst overview of the phenomenon in Italy,
improving the knowledge of the proles of Makers; an important step because Makers are usually dened in a very broad way. Furthermore, we
investigated their proles regarding their values and motivations, in order to understand how much Makers engage in peer production or in
traditional businesses and whether their working condition is sustainable or not. Finally, we compared these proles with data regarding
traditional designers and businesses and the national context. Given the recent nature of the Maker movement, the focus of this article is on
providing a rst overview of the phenomenon in Italy with an exploratory analysis and with comparison with existing related literature or national
data, rather than contextualising the Maker movement in sociological and political contributions. Far from happening in a void, Italian Makers have
a strong relationship with their localities and established industry. Therefore, this is a recent evolution, where Makers work with a broader palette
of projects and strategies: With both non-commercial and commercial activities, both peer production and traditional approaches. The activity of
making is still a secondary working activity that partially covers the Makers’ income, who are mostly self-employed working at home, in a craft
workshop or in a Fab Lab in self-funded or non-commercial initiatives, where technology is not the only critical issue. As a conclusion, we identied
current patterns in the working condition of Italian Makers. The data gathered shows some interesting information that, however, could be
applicable only to an Italian context. Nevertheless, the survey could be a starting point to compare the same phenomenon in dierent countries.
Therefore, we released the survey les, software and data as open source in order to facilitate the adoption, modication, verication and
replication of the survey.
Keywords:
maker movement, indie designers, Italy, survey
By Massimo Menichinelli, Massimo Bianchini, Alessandra Carosi, Stefano Maei
INTRODUCTION
The development and adoption of digital technologies in the past few decades has introduced new working conditions and modied some of
the existing ones. New forms of organisation and new forms of distribution of resources have been enabled (or old forms have been modied
or rendered obsolete) especially thanks to infrastructures such as the Internet (a global network of devices and technologies) and the World
Wide Web (a global network of information and documents). Furthermore, there are also protocols and softwares that manage the
interaction between both of these networks. Digital technologies have always been in part digital and immaterial with data and software, and
physical and material with hardware and connections. This ecosystem has enabled the emerging of new forms of work, organisation, business
and economic activity in many elds such as music, biotechnology, movies, science, art and so on, including design. Free Software, Open
Source, Peer-to-Peer, Crowdsourcing, Sharing Economy, Diuse, Distributed and Decentralised Systems are some of the many new denitions
created in order to understand better the new phenomena of organisation of work emerged from the adoption of digital technologies, and
especially the Internet and the World Wide Web. The concept of peer production emerged as a framework that aims at identifying the
common traits in all these denitions regarding a new and relevant way of organising the work of distributed and autonomous individuals
MAKERS AS A NEW WORK CONDITION BETWEEN SELF-
EMPLOYMENT AND COMMUNITY PEER-PRODUCTION. INSIGHTS
FROM A SURVEY ON MAKERS IN ITALY.
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Makers as a New Work Condition Between Self-employment and Community Peer-
production. Insights from a survey on Makers in Italy.
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within the production and distribution of digital content characterised by collaborative practices, rather than competitive ones (Benkler,
2002).
This digital content, thanks also to the digitalisation of an increasing amount of types of information, encompasses many elds and
disciplines, making peer production a promising means of organising knowledge work in future years. A new and relevant way for organising
work on digital content, could also be restated as a new and relevant way for organising the design of digital content, understanding design
both as “to plan and make decisions about (something that is being built or created)” or “to create the plans, drawings, etc., that show how
(something) will be made”. Both are denitions of design according to the Merriam Webster dictionary (“Design”, 2015), and could refer to a
general or broader (or even informal) activity of developing a content or project (i.e., like professionals who are not trained as designers or
amateurs do) or to developing a project following the methods, culture, history, tools and roles of the Design discipline (i.e., designers). For
example, software is digital content that can be “designed” (usually by people formally trained in software development, computer science
and engineering, but increasingly by people with informal training); the design of websites is a specic form of software (and therefore digital
content) that can be designed (usually by people formally trained in design, art, architecture, but increasingly by people with informal
training).
Therefore, peer production can be applied to Design, but other phenomena in the past two decades have shown that it could be applied also
to non-digital Design projects. As we have seen, digital technologies are both immaterial and material, physical and digital. Increasingly, the
adoption of peer production is taking place not only in the context of the development of digital and immaterial content, but also during the
design, manufacturing and distribution of physical goods. Furthermore, Open Design and Open Hardware projects are developed, discussed,
manufactured and distributed thanks to digital fabrication and communication technologies, advanced funding initiatives (like crowdfunding
platforms and hardware incubators) and globally integrated supply chains. This new systemic dimension of work is possible, among other
factors, thanks to local facilities like Fab Labs, Makerspaces and Hackerspaces, where individuals can gather and form communities with other
people, designing and manufacturing together. Such spaces represent the physical and geographically-located presence of the whole Maker
movement, generally considered as a global community with collaborations taking place locally and globally at the same time. There are
dierences among these facilities, and the discussion about their denition is an ongoing eort: Within this paper we prefer to refer to them
as Maker Laboratories, since the commonly used term “Makerspace” identies only one part of the global community (Menichinelli, 2016), and
the “Shared Machine Shops” term might not be always suitable to all of these labs, which in several cases have a limited set of machines and
act more as a community place, especially in the Italian context that is the focus of this article (Menichinelli and Ranellucci, 2015).
Generally, the participants of this movement are referred to as Makers, and, while their existence is still an emerging phenomenon, it is widely
acknowledged that they could exemplify a new and promising modality of work that reconnects people with traditions of manufacturing and
craftsmanship, that enable more meaningful and empowering autonomous jobs and that joins creativity and social networks and impact
(Anderson, 2012; Hatch, 2014). The dimension and impact of the Maker movement is a topic that is still understudied, but few studies showed
that everyday citizens already innovate products by hacking them: Eric von Hippel and his collaborators found that in the UK, USA and Japan
millions of citizens are engaging in consumer innovation activities related to products, and that their eort could be invaluable for the
industry, especially in the UK, where such eort has been calculated to surpass the national companies’ R&D expenditures on consumer
products (von Hippel et al., 2010; von Hippel et al., 2011). Such product hacking activities could be considered partially as related to a broad
Maker movement, and they could also be improved by connecting such citizen innovators with existing Maker communities and Maker
Laboratories that could foster such phenomenon and link it with industry. The physical dimension of digital technologies is now recognised as
a promising dimension, and there is an increasing interest in developing products and services in this domain, rather than just digital services:
Objects and manufacturing are increasingly digitalised (Anderson, 2010; Gershenfeld, 2005).
If Makers adopt, even if partially, peer production strategies, an analysis of their working and economic conditions could provide insights
regarding the work dimension of the peer production of physical objects. This could expand the possibilities of peer production, which has
been mostly tied to digital content so far. Furthermore, such analysis could give more insights on the sustainability of such practices and
therefore be a starting point for suggesting policies for facilitating the sustainable development of such practices. This article addresses this
issue by addressing the following related questions, but limiting the answers to the Italian context:
1. What are the working conditions of Makers?
2. How is peer production with physical goods taking place in the work of Makers?
3. How are the working condition of Makers related to current social and economic trends?
In order to answer these questions, we adopted two approaches: a literature review (in order to understand existing approaches and the
current social and economic situation) and an open online survey (in order to understand the emerging condition of Makers in Italy). We
investigated the knowledge, values and working dimensions of Makers in Italy with the Makers’ Inquiry online survey. This research generated
a rst overview of the phenomenon in Italy (Bianchini et al., 2015), identifying the proles of such Makers: An important step, because Makers
are usually dened in a very broad way. Furthermore, we investigated their proles regarding their values and motivations, in order to
understand how much Makers engage in peer production or in traditional business practices, whether they work with open source and
collaborative processes or individually, whether their communities have a strong role in their work or they are just a dimension with limited
relevance. We then investigated their emerging business and working conditions: their market, expenses and commercial strategies, and the
patterns regarding the ownership, access and use of manufacturing technologies. Finally, we compared these proles with data regarding
traditional designers and businesses and national context from existing literature.
PEER PRODUCTION AND MAKERS: PHYSICAL THINGS, PHYSICAL PLACES
The Internet and the World Wide Web have allowed the scaling up of projects in ways that were previously considered impossible, where
complexity stops being a problem and could become a positive feature. With the emergence of Free Software and Open Source projects and,
more specically, with the Linux kernel project, practitioners and researchers have started to witness how the participation of a huge
community in a project could represent a promising direction for the organisation of work. In the Linux kernel, for example, nearly 12,000
developers from more than 1,200 companies have contributed to the project since 2005 (Corbet et al., 2015). These principles and practices
have spread also to dierent domains than software development, showing a promising strategy for organising design, work and
management of complex projects (Goetz, 2003). Among the many new denitions created in order to understand better the new phenomena
of organisation of work emerged thanks to the digital technologies, peer production has emerged as the explanation and generalisation of
these processes. The term was coined by Yochai Benkler, who analysed many cases of collaborative design (intended with a broader
denition) through the dimensions of organisation and management and proposed “peer production” (and especially, “commons-based peer
production”) as a third way for organising work and business beside markets and managerial hierarchies (Benkler, 2002). Benkler generalised
from the phenomenon of Free Software to suggest characteristics that make large-scale collaborations in many information production elds
sustainable. Central to Benkler’s hypothesis is the claim that human knowledge, experiences and skills are highly variable and distributed:
Peer production is important not as a technological innovation, but rather as an innovation on the organisation of work thanks to technology.
In peer production, the distributed pool of users/designers participating in a project can better identify who is the best person for a task, with
an improved identication and allocation of human creativity. As dened by Benkler, peer production is, therefore, an organisational
innovation along three dimensions (Benkler, 2016):
1. Decentralised conception and execution, based on the self-selection of the participants at work on a modular organisation of the
project;
2. Coexistence of diverse motivations (including non-monetary motivations) allows the participation of a large community of participants
and
3. The organisation is separated from property and contract, with inputs and outputs mostly governed as open commons (hence, the
often-used term of “commons-based peer production”); the governance of resources and tasks are based on a combination of
participatory, meritocratic and charismatic strategies rather than proprietary, contractual and hierarchical models.
According to Benkler, these characteristics dene peer production against other denitions of mass-collaboration (or even mass-competition)
phenomena: for example, in Crowdsourcing, the tasks are highly regimented and pre-specied by the project’s management, with the main
goal of cost reduction, rather than distributed exploration of resources and possibilities. Peer production has, therefore, been considered a
promising framework for understanding and managing large collective intelligence projects. The research on peer production, mostly
developed in the eld of social sciences and legal studies, has mainly focused on the topics of organisation, motivation and quality (Benkler et
al., 2015).
As dened by Benkler and many other scholars, peer production is based on information for the self-organisation of participants and as the
basis of the projects developed: the work is organised thanks to digital tools and data and consists of the collaborative development of
modular projects of digital content. Thanks to ICTs, the costs for working (and distributing) digital content have lowered dramatically, making
it easier to work on a large scale with digital content. There have been, however, many attempts at dening and experimenting how peer
production could be applied to physical products beside only digital content. As noted by Clay Shirky, this could happen because: “An
increasing number of physical products are becoming so data-centric that the physical aspects are simply executional steps at the end of a
chain of digital manipulation” (Shirky, 2007). Early attempts at dening peer production for physical goods tried to understand a scenario of a
society in which peer production is the primary mode of production, fullling the old Marxist postulate that control over the means of
production should be in the hands of the producers, more specically as commons (Siefkes, 2008). The most critical issues considered by
Christian Siefkes were the coordination of production with consumption and the allocation of physical resources and goods (which, being rival
goods, are limited, cannot be completely shared and are costly to distribute). Here, digital fabrication is already seen as a possible means of
supporting these processes by allowing personal manufacturing as proposed by Neil Gershenfeld (2005) but not for completely solving all the
issues of peer production for physical goods. Michel Bauwens also reected on the possibilities for the peer production of physical things,
proposing Open Design, Open Manufacturing, Open Money and P2P Energy Grids as its main strategies (Bauwens, 2009). In order to produce
physical goods, there are inevitable costs of getting the capital together, and there needs at least to be cost recovery in order to make a
project sustainable, therefore peer production as it emerged in digital content cannot be completely adopted. However, Bauwens suggested
that the design process is the link between peer production and physical goods, since it is now largely an immaterial software-based process
depending on the collaboration of several people. Therefore, a possible strategy could be the link between shared projects (Open Design)
that can be prototyped and compiled in Maker Laboratories (Open Manufacturing) or with Open Hardware technologies like the RepRap 3D
printer. Open Money and P2P Energy Grids are further elements that improve the sustainability of these issues on the nancial and energetic
dimensions.
Beside a few theoretical contributions about possible scenarios, a relevant amount of contribution has come from the practice of Open
Design (Abel et al., 2011) and Open Hardware (Thompson, 2008) projects, where the rst physical goods projects were designed and
manufactured, facing many organisational, legal and business issues. Research on early Open Design projects (Raasch et al., 2009) showed it
to be implemented in a substantial variety of projects with three dierent loci of production (external manufacturers, community or the focal
organisation coordinating the project). In some cases that were examined, there is no clear-cut separation between design, prototyping and
production in the community. Furthermore, it is important to point out that the researchers found some limitations to openness of the
projects caused by the attempt to balance the interests of the designer community and commercial companies involved, like suppliers or
manufacturers. Balka et al. (2009) found strong relationships between the stage of advancement of the development of Open Design
projects and the size of the community, the presence of commercial contributors and the intensity of cooperation. However, the research
reports that the number of people involved in the analysed communities mostly falls in the 2-10 range, with the range of 11-100 coming in
second place, the range of only 1 participant in third place. The range of more than 100 participants is the last place, showing how peer
production with physical goods was still limited to a few participants, compared to how its application to digital content was mostly
considered relevant for the ability to scale to thousands of participants.
Open Design and Open Hardware are, therefore, the projects where peer production is applied to the design and manufacturing of physical
goods, and their popularity, number of cases, dimension of communities and relevance have evolved considerably after these rst analyses. It
has been suggested that if Open Design and Open Hardware can be metaphorically compared to the “books” of commons-based peer
production, then Maker laboratories are its libraries, that act as common points of access to stored knowledge and where new knowledge can
be produced by providing general access to the tools, methods and experience of peer production (Troxler, 2011). Furthermore some of these
spaces, especially Fab Labs, not only provide local access to digital and traditional manufacturing technologies, but also require the users to
share their knowledge (CBA, 2012). Some research, however, has shown how the sharing of projects and documentation is still limited: an
empirical study based on qualitative interviews with Fab Lab users found that the sharing of documentation and projects is limited by the
diculty of the task (especially when it involves tacit knowledge) and at the same time by the continuous evolution of the global Fab Lab
community. Interestingly, these motivations are not the same for global online platforms, identied by researchers in previous literature
(Wolf et al., 2014).
If Maker Laboratories are libraries for the peer production of physical goods, then the readers who come to these libraries are widely
regarded to be the Makers. The term “Maker” has been generally referred to people who autonomously engage in the design and production
of physical goods, from craft to electronics. Chris Anderson (Anderson, 2012) extends this denition stating that, furthermore, they use
digital desktop tools to design and prototype new products; they follow cultural norms that prescribe to share and collaborate on those
designs in online communities; they use common design standards that could enable the manufacturing of these projects by many actors and
organisations beside the original designers or manufacturers. An empirical study of the development of the Maker identity shared by
members of a small-town Hackerspace discovered that the identity of an established Maker is based on the development of a tool and
material sensibility, on the adoption of an ad-hoci attitude and on the engagement with the broader Maker community (Toombs et al., 2014).
Makers are generally considered a new kind of work that could generate new business and employment, with new dynamics, technologies and
markets (Anderson, 2010, 2012; Hatch, 2014). The emergence of Makers is, however, still recent: the birth of the term is generally considered
to be in 2005 with the launch of Make Magazine (Dougherty, 2005), and there is still a gap in the literature regarding the working conditions
of being a Maker. The link between peer production and physical goods has been, therefore, established in practice thanks to Open Hardware
and Open Design projects, developed and manufactured in Maker laboratories by Makers. The research on this topic is, however, still in its
early steps, and while many contributions point to limits and dierences in the peer production of physical goods, compared to digital
content, more focus is needed on the organisation and the working conditions of such an approach.
MAKERS’ INQUIRY: A NATIONAL INVESTIGATION ABOUT A NEW CONDITION IN ITALY
The term “Maker” and the whole global ecosystem of Maker laboratories are recent phenomena and this aspect is even more relevant in Italy,
where the rst (temporary) Fab Lab was established in 2011, several years after many other countries had one (Menichinelli and Ranellucci,
2015). In order to explore the social, economic, cultural and technological dimensions of Makers in Italy, we set up the Makers’ Inquiry as an
online survey developed during 2014. The Makers’ Inquiry was developed and coordinated by the Department of Design of Politecnico di
Milano, in collaboration with the Make in Italy CBD Foundation and the Make in Italy Association; it was also supported by the DESIS Network.
The survey analysed Italian Makers in terms of which skills and capabilities they have, what kind of places they work in, which design processes
and approaches they follow and what their social and economic statuses are, together with their working conditions. There are several
dierent interpretations of the term “Maker”, and it is still dicult to know precisely how many Makers are in Italy and where they are (and,
therefore, it is also dicult to reach them). For this reason, we decided to develop an open online survey in order to explore the emerging
community of Italian Makers, rather than trying to precisely identify and quantify who they are. We provided three dierent meanings to the
term Maker, from which participants could choose at the beginning of the survey:
Makers as commonly understood and described in Make Magazine and other related authors (Anderson, 2012; Dougherty, 2005; The
Blueprint, 2014): Makers as technologically advanced people who tend to use digital technologies for communicating, manufacturing and
sharing their projects;
Makers as Independent (Indie) Designers: Individual design actors that own or manage all the competencies related to design, production, and
distribution processes, thus becoming self-producers (Bianchini and Maei, 2012); and
Managers of Maker Laboratories (since they both are probably a good example of Makers, and they work with Makers on an everyday basis).
We chose to reach potential Makers through online communities (the Facebook group Fabber in Italia), Maker laboratories and specic
communications organised by the Make in Italy CBD Foundation and the Make in Italy Association. The survey was ocially launched in July
2014 and closed at the end of October 2014: 214 participants partially completed the survey (which was composed by of questions divided
into 11 sections, except for Maker Laboratories managers who were presented a further section dedicated to their work), and we chose to
focus only on the participants who completed more than 50% of the questions, i.e., 134 participants. The online platform for the Makers’
Inquiry was developed with open source software (LimeSurvey Project Team and Schmitz, 2015) and the scripts specically developed in
order to manage information and elaborate data and graphs are also accessible online as open source software. In addition, the results of the
survey have been released online as open data, accessible to the general public, the research community and the Maker community through a
book (Bianchini et al., 2015), and at the 2015 Cumulus Conference (2015), in a paper investigating the Design education system evolution in
the era of digital fabrication, which took into consideration the results of the Makers’ Inquiry (Menichinelli et al., 2015). The survey has
focused only on the Italian context for the moment but there is the intention to spread the research to other countries worldwide thanks to
the collaboration with other international institutions. In this way, the Makers’ Inquiry could allow the comparison of data from national
Maker communities becoming a shared and collaborative tool for understanding the Maker movement. The online platform could also, at the
same time, become a shared repository for research and data about Makers and Maker Laboratories.
This article proposes a discussion from just a selection of questions composing the whole inquiry, in order to highlight the most important
aspects regarding the connections among Makers, Maker Laboratories, peer production and work. We analysed the social, educational and
economic dimension of Italian Makers, as a background for their working conditions and participation in peer production practices. First of all,
the age of Makers ranges from 21 and 60 years old but the majority of them is between 30 and 40 years old, with a peak at 36 years (Fig. 1).
The age of Italian Makers falls mainly in the range of the working age, showing how the identity of Makers could be linked to work. The
majority of the participants lives with her/his partner (30.5%) and children (21.6%); less than 15% live alone or with her/his parents.
Furthermore then, the Italian Maker scene is mostly composed by adults who have a family. Regarding their gender, 72.4% of them self-
identies as male, 23.4% as female and 3.7% prefers not to reply to the question.
Figure 1. The distribution of the age of the participants in the survey
Italian Makers are mostly highly educated and able to relate with international subjects: 88.8% of the participants speak English, 44.7% has a
Master degree, 13.4% arms to have a Bachelor degree and just 17.1% obtained only a high school diploma. The elds of specialisation of
Italian Makers are mainly related to industrial design, architecture and engineering (i.e., mechanics, informatics and electronics); conrming,
therefore, the identity of Italian Makers as based on the integration of both creative and technical skills related to project development.
We then investigated the role of making in the economic and working conditions of participants: Making is mainly considered a secondary or
complementary activity for the majority of the sample (54.4%). It is interesting to highlight that only 26.1% of the subjects consider it as a
primary activity, while for 19.4% of the interviewed it is just a hobby. Therefore, making is not just an amateur activity for participants but it
consists of a sort of serious profession in the principal working period of subjects’ life, even if only to a partial extent. In particular, as making
is not considered the main activity of Italian makers, their principal occupation has been analysed. The majority of the sample (31.3%) declares
to be mainly working as freelancers, while 10.3% are entrepreneurs and 19% are employed and just 6.7% are students. It can be stated that, in
respect to the typology of work, the Italian Maker community is mainly composed by professionals who work in an independent and
autonomous way, without being part of established companies (Fig. 2) Interestingly, 21.6% of them did not reply to the question (this is the
most common value after being a freelancer), showing how working conditions might be unclear, a sensitive topic, or not tting in
conventional formats. It should be noted that within another survey about Maker Laboratories in Italy (Menichinelli and Ranellucci, 2015), a
similar reaction was found around the topic of budget and business models for Maker Laboratories: here the reaction was even more
extreme, with the majority of Maker Laboratories not answering about their budget and business models. The economic and work dimensions
of Makers and Maker Laboratories in Italy is, therefore, either still emergent and underdeveloped, a critical and sensitive topic, or a dimension
that Makers and Maker Laboratories are not aware of.
Figure 2. The work contract of the participants in the survey
Referring more specically to formal working conditions (eg, work contracts), a third of subjects (31.3%) works as freelancers (with or without
VAT), while 17.1% have open-ended contracts and 5.2% xed-term contracts, showing that making is mainly an independent and autonomous
activity. Interestingly, 16.4% of the subjects mentioned other working conditions; however, when analysed in depth, they show that a further
7.4% of subjects have self-employed positions (9% are entrepreneurs then), bringing us to a 38.7% of subjects that are self-employed
individuals. Therefore, even if making remains an emerging phenomenon, it can be considered as a new way of working professionally and not
just a hobby. On one side, there are entrepreneurs and professionals of self-production and making, and, on the other, individuals who deal
with making as a supplementary activity, maintaining another principal job. We also investigated the sustainability of the yearly income of
Makers: the majority of participants (36.5%) earns between 10,000 and 25,000 €, while only 10.4% of the subjects have no income at all, and
23.1% earn between 0 and 10,000 €. On the higher end, 17.1% earn between 25,000 and 50,000 € (Fig. 3). The Italian average per capita
income is 20,678 € (Cnel and Istat, 2014): The majority of Makers earns less or a bit more than the national average.
Figure 3. Yearly income of the participants in the survey
Furthermore, when it comes to dening the percentage of earnings directly deriving from making activities and self-production, a huge
percentage of people did not answer (Fig. 4) showing how little impact making has on income or how Makers have a low awareness of such
impact, or how sensitive this question could be. Among the ones who answered, making has been conrmed as a secondary activity: for 31.1%
of the subjects, it contributes just in a minimum part of their salary (from 0% to 30% of the total income). A smaller group of people (9.5% of
the sample) earns between 40% and 70% of their income from it, while just 11.4% of subjects obtain between 80% and 100% of their income
from it.
Figure 4. Percentage of income coming from making for the participants in the survey
The activity of Italian Makers is mainly focused on producing prototypes (56.7%) and then manufacturing products in small batch runs
(47.7%), personalised products (44%) and unique pieces (40.2%). Referring to quantities, 34.3% of the sample concentrates their work on 10
units/year, while 29% works on mini batch runs (18.6% until 50 units, and 10.4% until 100 units). Just 12.6% of subjects declared they produce
more than 100 units per year. In relation to the target audience, Makers seem to sell a small amount of products to a wide audience of clients:
professionals, private clients, distributors, traditional enterprises, and so on.
Their principal market (26.8%) consists of freelancers, traditional companies (20.1%), artisans (13.4%) and other Makers (13.4%). This data
could suggest the existence of particular professional B2C channels, in addition to the classical B2B one. Furthermore, Italian Makers sell their
products and services via B2C channels through distributors/traders (19.4%) and private clients (11.19%). There is a notable number of
subjects who support Makers’ markets and encourage their activities; 23.1% are composed of friends and relatives, while 6.7% are investors
(crowdfunding or venture capitalists). In conclusion, the great majority of Italian Makers mainly rely on their own resources through self-
nancing (71.6%) and, in a lower amount, through the resources they gain thanks to the sale of their products and services (46.2%). Just a
small number of subjects rely on loans and credit (9.7%) or social nancing like crowdfunding (8.2%). It can be stated at this stage Italian
Makers are characterised by a traditional small business approach, investing enthusiasm and energy within an activity they like, and relying
mainly on their personal and private resources.
This data highlights a positive fact: Making activities are starting to provide some supplementary income for the people who undertake them.
In some cases, such activities can become a professional opportunity for work: Making is evolving from a hobby activity to a professional job.
One of the reasons for this condition could be addressed to the recent origin of this phenomenon in Italy, where making can be still
considered a quite recent movement as a whole. Indeed, the majority of Italian Makers (60.4%) have only been involved in making activities
for the past ve years; 17.9% declares to have been involved making activities for less than a year, while 19.3% has practiced making for more
than 5 years. The increasing interest towards making could be then linked to the global spread of the Maker Movement, but also with the
Great Recession that took place in the years after 2007: Interest in making could be a consequence of the spreading of the “Maker meme”,
but also as a consequence of the need to nd new work opportunities in a period of crisis through self-employment. Furthermore, the
phenomenon of the Maker in Italy has emerged more recently than in other countries, but it has found a prior “making knowledge” already
embedded in historical Italian industrial districts. There is, in fact, an interesting overlap between the territorial concentrations of Italian
Makers within historical industrial districts and urban contexts (Fig. 5): 27.5% of the participants lives in urban contexts (20,8% lives in Milan,
Rome and Bologna as a whole) but 75 places have been mapped through the whole country. The higher concentration of Makers can be found
in North and Central Italy, partially superimposed onto the pre-existing geography of industrial districts. Moreover, many Maker Laboratories
and Italian manufacturers of digital fabrication technologies have a strong link with local productive systems. This means that there could be
a partial continuity between traditional local production and the emergent working conditions of Makers.
Figure 5. Geographical distribution of the participants in the survey
We also investigated to what extent the working conditions of Makers in Italy can be related to peer production. We did not ask a specic
question about peer production, but we asked several questions regarding many aspects of peer production: motivation for working, types of
projects and approaches, values, participation in online and local communities in Maker Laboratories.
Regarding why people participate in making, the rst motivation is the will to experiment (74.6%), followed by an interest in creating a
product-service or launching an enterprise (64.9%), and then by an interest in learning (60.4%). However, social aspects like collaboration with
other people is an important motivation only for 39.9% of subjects: a relevant percentage, but less than half of the participants are interested
in collaboration. The idea of participation in making as an alternative for the capitalistic model of production and consumption of goods is
accepted only by half of the participants (50.7%). In a similar way, a little bit less than half of the participants (44%) participate in making
because of the possibility of generating a positive impact on their local community. In terms of keyword association, Italian Makers associate
the term “making” with several dierent dimensions (Fig. 6). In rst place, they relate it with self-production as an activity (75.3%), followed
by Digital Fabrication as technology (52.9%), then with Maker Laboratories as places (61.1%) and DIY as an approach (51.4%). It is interesting
to note also the association with the theme of Openness (Open Design, Open Hardware, Open Source Software) (39.5%) and with the
Collaboration and Sharing condition (47.1%). Even if the majority of Makers do not associate making with openness, collaboration and sharing
of knowledge and goods, a notable amount of participants do and their percentage is relevant. Therefore, it can be stated that collaboration
and openness are still emerging ideas in making activities, not fully widespread, but already present and relevant.
Figure 6. Keywords associated with “making” by the participants in the survey
At the same time, even if sharing and collaboration are not clearly associated with making, the majority of the participants stated that they
are more important than general information, technical knowledge, the organisation of initiatives, places for work and les and resources.
Sharing and collaboration, therefore, are not considered to be originating from making, but are the most important traits. More insights
about the approach to sharing and collaboration can be gathered from the question where we asked the Makers to choose an approach for
their design processes (Fig. 7). While the majority of Makers prefer to start their projects from scratch (79.1%), Tinkering and Open Design
follow at almost the same percentage (41.8% and 40.3%, respectively). Co-Design with a community then follows (20.9%) and Generative
Design tools and approaches are the last option (9.7%). While Makers may still prefer to work individually, especially while experimenting
with the materials at the same time of designing, the Open Design approach is highly relevant here.
Figure 7. Approaches to design processes by the participants in the survey
We then investigated to which extent Italian Makers participate in an online community or in local laboratories. The majority of them
participates in an online community, specifying that they are members of the community (41.8 %) or that they participate while not being a
real member (23.8%); 34.3% of them do not participate in an online community of Makers. The size of these online communities are mostly
under 50 members (41.8%), but a relevant number of participants (26.8%) did not reply to the question, probably because they are not aware
of the size of their community. The activities of these communities that the Makers participates in are also a good sign of the amount of
collaboration and sharing (Fig. 8). Makers mostly follow activities passively (55.2%), but also download content (26.8%), and produce and
share content (25.3%). While sharing and downloading content are activities with almost the same percentage (but with a higher proportion
of unanswered questions compared to the other activities), active participation in working with other members takes place with a much less
percentage: 11.2% for both the development of projects or events.
Figure 8. Activities in online communities by the participants in the survey
Regarding the participation in a local Maker Laboratory, 53.7% of the participants are active in one of them (even if with dierent levels of
involvement), while 29.8% do not participate because they already own a private laboratory and 16.4% do not participate at all in a
laboratory. These laboratories are mostly Fab Labs (35%), craftsmen’s workshops (18.6%) or Makerspaces (5.2%), among others. Here, again,
we asked which kinds of activities the Makers were participating in, and generally the participation and collaboration was higher than in
online communities (Fig. 9). Inside laboratories, Makers follow activities (22.4%), develop their projects (49.2%) or projects with others
(29.8%) or initiatives and events (27.6%).
Figure 9. Activities in Maker Laboratories by the participants in the survey
COMPARING THE MAKERS’ INQUIRY WITH OTHER SOURCES AND THE ITALIAN CONTEXT
There have been several investigations regarding peer production and projects related to making, but to our knowledge the Makers’ Inquiry
represents the rst attempt realised in Italy to explore the world of Makers in various dimensions beside the more common technological
component. This section of the article aims at comparing Makers’ proles and their work and economic conditions resulting from the Makers’
Inquiry with other research, statistics and literature. In our comparisons, we focused on three directions, comparing Makers with:
1. The world of Design, with a specic focus on designers that self-produce their projects, (4.1);
2. The world of Manufacturing that takes place outside Maker Laboratories but that adopts their technologies (4.2); and
3. The general working conditions in Italy (4.3).
A preliminary consideration about the importance of analysing the Italian situation needs to be done: Within Western countries, Italy
represents a notable context for observing the transformation taking place between the world of creativity and production. First of all, Italy
nds itself in a leading position regarding the number of Fab Labs, and therefore it represents a relevant context for an analysis of Makers’
conditions (according to Fablabs.io, the ocial platform for Fab Labs, at the moment of writing—8 August 2016—Italy is the third country in
the world for the number of Fab Labs). Secondly, Italy is one of the countries with the highest amount of micro-enterprises in Europe
(Airaksinen et al., 2015), i.e., the organisation dimension coincides with the individual one (employed or freelance), and this fact represents an
interesting point for the contextualisation of the system where Makers and Maker Laboratories are located.
Comparing Makers and designers
The rst comparison can be conducted between the Maker and the gure of Indie Designers who follow the Designer=Enterprise or
individual=organisation model (Bianchini and Maei, 2012). Few ocial statistical data about designers’ working conditions in Italy (but also
abroad) exist, and, in particular about Indie Designers. The latest information is dated 2013 (referring to data from 2012) and is contained
within the Sector Study created by the Income Revenue Authority, which describes “Industrial and fashion design activity” (identied by the
Cod. ATECO 74.10.10) and “Other design activity” (identied by the Cod. ATECO 74.10.90). The study investigates the scal position of 5,707
designers (product, fashion, interiors and graphic designers) referring to the year 2011, and it describes the typology and principal
characteristics of the services they oered, their clients and markets, organisational forms and working places. The more interesting data
concerns the category “Design studios selling self produced artefacts” (i.e., Indie Designers), whose presence is not substantial in terms of
absolute numbers (representing 3.4% of the sample) but it certainly exceeds the number of large dimension design studios. Self-producers’
features can be highlighted as follows:
They present a diversied clientèle composed of singular enterprises, private organisations and private subjects;
1/3 of designers realise 43% of their income with foreign clients, presenting a notable level of internationalisation;
Their productive activities have a micro dimension: 61% of self-producers consists of individual enterprises relying on 1-2 workers; in just 20%
of cases are there employees;
97% of designers are autonomous workers working independently; and
Their prototyping/production space has a considerable importance. The overall working surface consists of 68m2, for 51% of the sample
48m2 are set up as laboratory for prototyping and production.
In 2012, before the Makers’ Inquiry, a non-scientic analysis called Designers’ Inquiry was developed in order to investigate the working
conditions of designers, focusing particularly on their precarious conditions (Cantiere per pratiche non-aermative, 2013). Conducted on a
sample of 767 designers aged between 21 and 35 years old (96% of them were Italian), the survey highlighted some particular aspects on
their economic condition: Younger designers have very few earning with irregular incomes (32% arms to gain from 0 to 5,000 € per year and
40% between 5,000 and 20,000 €), 33% of them needs to have a second complementary job in order to integrate their income, there is a lack
of tutelage for designers and, in general, there is a need to develop a network of contacts in order to obtain some collaborations.
Some common ndings between the results of the Makers’ Inquiry and the Designers’ Inquiry include:
The relationship with a diversied market composed by both B2B and B2C channels;
A working and contractual condition based on self-entrepreneurial activity;
The need to develop integrative earnings (design or making can be considered both the rst or second activity together with something else);
The direct link between the working condition and the presence of places (private or public) accessible for prototyping artefacts or
experimenting with technologies;
The interest in having other places (like Maker Laboratories) able to integrate personal workshops or private production space;
An activity strongly focused on the development of a network of personal relationships and contacts in order to start generating commissions
and support business activities;
A strong continuity and proximity between personal and professional life;
The importance of familiar and friend networks in supporting the creation and development of their market; and
An activity developed thanks to strong personal motivation enabling them to also face unfavourable working conditions.
It should be noted, however, that the Designers’ Inquiry does not mention peer production and the importance of collaborative communities,
while competition and the competitiveness of designers is well described.
Comparing Makers and manufacturing enterprises
It is also important to compare Makers and traditional or established manufacturing enterprises, especially considering their reciprocal
integration. This topic is still under-studied, but we have found an interesting source in the rst report on digital technology impact on the
Italian manufacturing system, created by Fondazione Nord Est and Prometeia for the Make in Italy CDB Foundation using a sample of 1,000
Italian rms. This report describes the “Make in Italy” as a transformation of the “Made in Italy” through the spread of the Makers movement
under the inuence of digital fabrication technologies (Fondazione Nord Est and Prometeia, 2015). The report depicts Makers in Italy as “a
still very fragmented world, with the potential to erupt, with great innovative capabilities and high possibilities of transferring its innovations
to more structured enterprises” (p. 11, English translation of the authors of this article). The study suggests that digital fabrication
technologies and Makers can foster innovation and the valorisation of human capital by developing advanced technology proles, by
introducing innovative elements in traditional enterprises and by reinforcing the competitive capabilities of the entrepreneurial system. The
report mentions Makers only in the introduction, mainly referring to the theme of digital craftsmanship, i.e., the forms of manufacturing
production characterised by the use of digital technologies. There is no specic reference to the working condition of Makers or to peer
production. Therefore, some of the themes at the basis of the Maker culture have not been faced in this analysis of digital technologies
inuence within tradition manufacturing enterprises.
An important section of the report describes the adoption of digital fabrication technologies, also focusing on the factors preventing or
slowing the technology diusion, such as 3D printing. It is interesting to highlight how nding professionally-trained workers able to develop
the use of these technologies (as Makers could be) is not perceived as an important problem for the rms. A further conrmation of the
actual distance between Makers (and their values) and enterprises can be noticed in another section of the report that describes the actors
the enterprises deal with in order to obtain information and updates on digital technology development. Also, in this case, Makers as
individuals or communities of professionals and workers are not even contemplated. The theme of the Maker community is represented
regarding the relationship between manufacturing enterprises and Maker Laboratories, which, however, turns out to be very weak at all
levels: Makers and Maker Laboratories are considered the less relevant actors when it comes to talk about technology. This fact could be
interpreted in dierent ways, rst of all, the recent development of the Maker movement and the scarce number of Maker Laboratories
compared to rms. The nal section of the report has a specic focus on the role of Maker Laboratories and denes two dierent
development strategies: on one side, such laboratories could become stable partners for enterprises; on the other side, these laboratories
could work on education and on the spreading of digital manufacturing within enterprises and the civil sector. In the rst category,
professional Makers operating as collaborators/business partners would prevail, while, in the second one, Makers operating as volunteers
would prevail.
In conclusion, it can be highlighted that many common areas and similarities between the working conditions of Makers and designers
emerge, while the integration between Maker Laboratories and enterprises still remains very limited. In particular, comparing the Makers’
Inquiry and the report realised by Fondazione Nord Est and Prometeia (Fondazione Nord Est and Prometeia, 2015), the following notable
elements can be considered:
The partners of manufacturing enterprises are not Makers meant as individual workers/professionals, but Maker Laboratories meant as
organisations containing those communities;
Within the industrial context, Makers do not seem to be considered yet as professional proles by enterprises for the development and the
use of digital technologies; and
The relationship between manufacturing enterprises and peer production, ideally represented by Maker Laboratories, presents a residual and
scarce value. The relationship between communities of professional Makers and enterprises do not take into consideration peer production:
Instead, it focuses on consulting services, while the peer-to-peer dimension seems to be more connected with the eld of education/learning
where voluntary work prevails.
Contextualising Makers within current Italian working conditions
The relationship between working conditions as emerging from the Makers’ Inquiry can be briey contextualised with national working
conditions. In this section, we therefore compare it with the working conditions for freelance workers, for enterprises and for cooperatives.
As a starting point, we considered the national statistics, as collected and elaborated by the national institute for statistics, ISTAT (ISTAT,
2015) (see Table 1). Relevant issues can be found: inactive persons during working age (23.4%) are more than self-employed persons (9.1%)
and almost as much as employed people (27.8%). Even with such a small percentage of self-employed workers, Italy is the second country in
Europe for the proportion of self-employed persons over employed persons (Teichgraber, 2016). Meanwhile, unemployment has risen to
12.7%, and 15-24-year-old young persons face a 42.7% unemployment rate. Employment is more prevalent in Northern Italy (64.3%) than
Southern Italy (41.8%).
Table1.WorkingconditionsofthenationalresidentpopulationinItaly(ISTAT,2015)
No.Workingconditions Absolutevalues %
1 Workingpersons 22,278,917 36.9
2 Selfemployed 5,498,719 9.1
3 Fulltime 4,661,964 7.7
4 Parttime 836,755 1.4
5 Employed 16,780,199 27.8
6 Fulltimewithanopenendedcontract 11,921,652 19.7
7 Parttimewithanopenendedcontract 2,581,226 4.3
8 Fulltimewithafixedtermcontract 1,604,319 2.7
9 Parttimewithafixedtermcontract 673,002 1.1
10 Personslookingforajob 3,236,007 5.4
11 Inactivepersonsofworkingage(1564yearsold) 14,121,771 23.4
12 Notactivelylookingforajobbutavailableforworking 1,868,949 3.1
13 Notlookingforajobbutavailableforworking 1,504,670 2.5
14 Activelylookingforajobbutnotavailableforworking 277,320 0.5
15 Notlookingforajobandnotavailableforworking 10,470,832 17.3
16 Inactivepersonsnotofworkingage 20,811,214 34.4
17 <15yearsold 8,438,807 14.0
18 >64yearsold 12,372,407 20.5
19 Nationalresidentpopulation 60,447,909 100.0
The current situation of the Italian community of Makers observed through the Makers’ Inquiry has shown a variety of professional gures
among its members. Many of these subjects are connected with professional orders and associations, social cooperatives, cultural
associations, social centres, research and innovation institutions. All these organisations are formally or informally a place for professional
representation, and they all are now facing the overall transformation of work into more exible and independent forms. This issue is directly
linked to the recognition of making and Makers as a working condition and a specic profession. To date, Italian Makers are facilitated and up
to point represented by associations (Make in Italy, Social Fab Lab) and Foundations (Make in Italy CDB), though they still lack a formal legal
status. For example, statistical codes identifying the economic activities (e.g., NACE codes) do not report ocial descriptions regarding
making-related activities, as expressed by the Maker movement. Economic activities, such as prototyping and self-production, which are
common among Makers, are attributed to design, architecture and engineering professions. In Italy, self-production is considered an
economic activity in the eld of design (Ateco code 74.10.1 – Industrial Design and Fashion activities), while prototyping is classied as activity
developed by technical draughtsmen and designers (Ateco code 74.10.3).
Italian Makers seem to be prevalently self-employed or entrepreneurs (38.7%), which is several times the 9.1% national level of self-
employment; furthermore, self-employed workers are 24.6% of the working population, still a lower number than the ones emerging from
the Makers’ Inquiry. A third of the Italian Maker Laboratories are characterised by the presence of co-working in their facilities (Menichinelli
and Ranellucci, 2015), showing further the connection between self-employed workers and the Maker movement. Another emerging bond in
this direction connects Maker Laboratories and professional associations. The growing geographical distribution of Maker Laboratories
facilitates the connection with local chapters of professional associations (architects and engineers) by becoming accredited training centres
for the professional development of architects and engineers. The phenomenon of self-employment in Italy is connected to the issue of
precarious work, especially in the creative industries (Arvidsson et al., 2010) but also by the development of mixed forms of passionate work
(McRobbie, 2015, 2016) and total work (Busacca, 2015) characterised by continuous learning, autonomy, responsibility, exibility,
individualisation, depreciation and cooperation. Within this context, Making activities are seen in Italy as an opportunity for new jobs or for
the regeneration of existing skills in current jobs. However, the condition of self-employed workers in Italy is increasingly deteriorating:
Between 2008 and 2013, 400,000 self-employed workers stopped working (7.2% of all self-employed workers) (Balduzzi, 2015; Hungton
Post, 2013). This has led some journalists to elaborate that self-employed workers are nowadays the new proletariat in Italy, or at least the
new working poor (Quinto Stato, 2014).
There is generally very little data about the integration of Italian Makers with rms, but we can focus on their contract and working condition
in order to start exploring this topic. Regarding employed workers in rms, 22.3% of the subjects of the Makers’ Inquiry work in this condition
(17.1% has an open-ended contract and 5.2% has a xed-term contract), which is similar to but lower than the national data (27.8% employed,
24% with an open-ended contract and 3.8% with a xed term contract); only for xed-term contracts do subjects of the Maker’s Inquiry have a
higher percentage (hinting again at the precarious and emerging nature of making activities). However, we should also note that since 2008
the number of rms in Italy has been in decline down to 4,390,000 units with 16,427,000 employees. Furthermore, the percentage of rms
capable of surviving one year after establishment is also a critical factor (76.1% of rms born in 2012 were still active in 2013); regarding
making, it should also be noted that 77% of Italian rms work in the service sector, which comprises almost 66% of all the employees (ISTAT,
2015), showing the current limitations of manufacturing in Italy. A very important feature of the Italian economic system is the prevalence of
micro rms (0-9 employees), representing, in 2012, 95.2% of all active rms and 47.5% of all employees, creating an added value of 30.8%.
Instead, large rms (with 250 or more employees) represent 0.1% of Italian rms and 19.4% of Italian employees for 31.5% of added value
generated.
Given the fact that Makers are generally interested in collaboration and sharing, we could expect a relevant role of cooperatives in this
movement as well. However, we nd this aspect limited, in line with national data. For example, among the 70 Maker Laboratories that were
analysed in Italy (Menichinelli and Ranellucci, 2015), only 4.3% were born out of the initiative of a cooperative, and only 2.9% are
cooperatives. The status of Italian Maker Laboratories is instead much more linked to informal organisations (23.2%) or not recognised (i.e., an
entity with no legal personality; 11.6%) or registered (36.2%) associations. In Italy, there are 301,191 non-prot organisations employing
951,580 paid employees (71.5% open-ended contracts, 28.4% xed-term contracts) and 4.7 million volunteers. Almost 2/3 of such
organisations are not recognised associations (who employ 12.4% of workers and 62.4% of volunteers). Social cooperatives represent 3.7% of
such organisations but employ the majority of workers (47.1%) and the least amount of volunteers (0.9%) (ISTAT, 2015).
At the present time, the “Make in Italy” system that comprises Makers, Maker Laboratories, enterprises and organisations seems more
focused on structuring its community thanks to the aggregative role played by local laboratories (connecting individuals), rather than using
local Makers’ alliances to generate economic activities based on new forms of cooperative works. Italian Makers are mainly self-employed and
not ocially recognised workers, participating in local laboratories that are mostly informal organisations or non-prot associations. This
condition could be seen as a limit to the development of making as an ocially recognised economic activity or, on the contrary, as the
embryo of a new way of working linked to an informal economy.
CONCLUSIONS
We investigated the knowledge, values and working dimensions of Makers in Italy with the Makers’ Inquiry, a survey that focused on Makers
as represented by Make Magazine, Independent Designers and managers of Maker Laboratories. This research generated a rst overview of
the phenomenon in Italy, identifying the proles of such Makers; this is an important step because Makers are usually dened in a very broad
way. Furthermore, we investigated their proles regarding their values and motivations, in order to understand how much Makers engage in
peer production or in traditional businesses, whether they work with open source and collaborative processes or individually, whether their
communities have a strong role in their work or they are just a dimension with limited relevance. We then investigated their emerging
business and working conditions. Finally, we compared the gathered data with data regarding traditional designers, businesses and the
national context. Given the recent nature of the Maker movement, the focus of this article is on providing a rst overview of the phenomenon
in Italy with an exploratory analysis and with comparison with existing related literature or national data, rather than contextualising the
Maker movement in sociological and political terms. Such contextualisations could be a further step for future research.
Far from happening in a void and being a completely unexpected revolution, Italian Makers have a strong relationship with their localities and
established industry. The majority of Italian Makers has been involved in making activities for the past ve years; therefore, this is a recent
evolution, where Makers work with a broader palette of projects and strategies: with both non-commercial and commercial activities, and
both peer production and traditional approaches. The activity of making is still a secondary working activity that partially covers the Makers’
income, who are mostly self-employed working at home, in a craft workshop or in a Fab Lab in self-funded or non-commercial initiatives,
where technology is not the only critical issue. After analysing the data from the Makers’ Inquiry, we can arm that Italian Makers have an
interest towards collaboration and peer production and, in particular, that the will to collaborate mostly derives from the necessity of
technological skills and capabilities acquisition but it is also an issue that is informally considered important. A notable interest towards
openness is also present but we could not nd any useful information that could have helped us in dierentiating the Maker approach to
openness when it comes to digital (i.e., open software) and physical (i.e., open hardware) content. Italian Makers associate making with
openness but not as its main trait, but their practice has a stronger relationship with openness than what Makers are aware of. Participation in
communities is relevant, but there is more collaboration in Maker Laboratories than in online communities. Italian Makers do practice Open
Design, but the gathered data suggests that peer production for physical goods in the context of Makers is still limited (in approach and scale
of production), at an early stage, more linked to practice than ideology. As found in the existing literature about peer production with physical
goods, there is a need for more practice and research in order to close the gap with peer production of digital content. The working
conditions of Italian Makers is emergent and still not completely economically sustainable, but more similar to a job than to a hobby. Even if
only a part of their income comes from making and making is mostly a secondary activity (and there is no ocial legal status for Makers in
Italy), they are more interested in making as a job than as a hobby and their age falls in the working-age range.
The data gathered shows some interesting information that, however could be applicable only to an Italian context. Nevertheless, the survey
could be a starting point to compare the same phenomenon in dierent countries. Therefore, on makersinquiry.org we released the survey
les, software and data as open source in order to facilitate the adoption, modication, verication and replication of the survey. The
replication of such a survey in more countries could both lead to an improvement to the survey, tools and approach and a further example of
peer production, in the context of Design research. The connections among Makers, Maker Laboratories, peer production and work are
growing, but further research is needed on the topics of peer production with physical goods and on the topic of policies that could improve
the working condition of Makers in order to be more sustainable. Some contributions suggested that consumer innovation already plays a
huge role in society, and we think that the Maker movement could be integrated with such phenomenon, as both are based on product
hacking by everyday citizens. If this integration takes place and has a relevant dimension, it would therefore be important to understand how
to make making activities more sustainable. We suggest that future research should gather more data and compare the available data with
theoretical contributions about working conditions of especially self-employed workers and non-prot organisations, with the aim of
elaborating policies that recognise and support the Maker movement and its impact on society and economy. Furthermore, we suggest to
adopt alternative approaches for studying this topic, extending this research from a survey to other perspectives, since one approach alone
cannot understand the complexity of the phenomena.
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About Issues Peer Review News Projects Home Journal of Peer Production - ISSN: 2213-5316
All the contents of this journal are in the public domain.
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Massimo Menichinelli,Aalto University & Fondazione Make in Italy CDB &IAAC | Fab City Research Laboratory
Massimo Bianchini,Politecnico di Milano, Dipartimento di Design
Alessandra Carosi,Politecnico di Milano, Dipartimento di Design
Stefano Maei,Politecnico di Milano, Dipartimento di Design
... With the use of shared platforms, Open Design also encourages information and experiences to be exchanged, making this system an accessible and easy way of logical and creative thinking. However, because it needs a basic knowledge of software programs and access to manufacturing spaces, such as Fab Labs or Makerspaces, Menichinelli et al. (2017) say that it is a new modality of work, a very recent movement, different from everything that have already existed. Avital (2011) defines Open Design as the possibility of user-driven creation and production processes enabled by distributed manufacturing. ...
... He discusses that a well-defined infrastructure is essential for an open system to work properly, leading to adaptive and powerful designs (Avital, 2011). Menichinelli et al. (2017) argue that the joint between the specialized tradition of manufacturing and craftsmanship and the participation of common people through the hacking of ordinary objects is inventing new creative ways of impacting social networks with innovative products. However, rather than the technological innovation itself, an important contribution is an innovation in the organization of work mediated by technology (Menichinelli et al., 2017). ...
... Menichinelli et al. (2017) argue that the joint between the specialized tradition of manufacturing and craftsmanship and the participation of common people through the hacking of ordinary objects is inventing new creative ways of impacting social networks with innovative products. However, rather than the technological innovation itself, an important contribution is an innovation in the organization of work mediated by technology (Menichinelli et al., 2017). (2006). ...
... In literature, there are works associating makers to production dynamics like peer production (Kohtala & Bosqué, 2014;Menichinelli, Bianchini, Carosi, & Maffei, 2017;Wolf & Troxler, 2016;Wolf, Troxler, Kocher, Harboe, & Gaudenz, 2014) and social manufacturing (Hamalainen & Karjalainen, 2017;Hirscher, Mazzarella, & Fuad-Luke, 2019;Yang & Jiang, 2019). However, it has not yet described the production model of cases where a network of people and organizations inserted in the Maker Movement are collaboratively producing some good or delivering some service in the context of redistributed manufacturing. ...
... Pearson et al., 2013. Kohtala andBosqué, 2014;Wolf et al., 2014;Wolf and Troxler, 2016;Menichinelli et al., 2017, Yang and Jiang, 2019, Manzini, 2012, Zhang, Tan, Sun, and Yang, 2020 ...
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Maker Networks indicate how society organizes itself to overcome significant challenges, such as the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) observed during the COVID-19pandemic. We analyze initiatives that produced PPE for frontline health staff to propose design guidelines for implementing RDM-Maker Networks: networks of people and organizations in the Maker Movement that collaboratively produce goods or services organized in a redistributed manufacturing (RDM) model. This paper has two main results: five Maker Networks in Brazil analyzed in terms of their RDM features and the subsequent design guidelines. We selected cases through several criteria like their location and the type of one of their nodes. Those criteria also represent limitations that further works can address. Link: http://revistas.unisinos.br/index.php/sdrj/article/view/sdrj.2021.141.18
... In literature, there are works associating makers to production dynamics like peer production (Kohtala & Bosqué, 2014;Menichinelli, Bianchini, Carosi, & Maffei, 2017;Wolf & Troxler, 2016;Wolf, Troxler, Kocher, Harboe, & Gaudenz, 2014) and social manufacturing (Hamalainen & Karjalainen, 2017;Hirscher, Mazzarella, & Fuad-Luke, 2019;Yang & Jiang, 2019). However, it has not yet described the production model of cases where a network of people and organizations inserted in the Maker Movement are collaboratively producing some good or delivering some service in the context of redistributed manufacturing. ...
... Pearson et al., 2013. Kohtala andBosqué, 2014;Wolf et al., 2014;Wolf and Troxler, 2016;Menichinelli et al., 2017, Yang and Jiang, 2019, Manzini, 2012, Zhang, Tan, Sun, and Yang, 2020 ...
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DESIS-Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability is a network of design-led research labs based in universities around the world created to trigger and support social change towards sustainability. The network started in 2009, in the wave of social innovation that characterized that period: innovations emerging mainly from grassroots initiatives aiming to solve, in a collaborative way, problems that people had to face in mature industrial societies. It is not rhetorical to say that the context we were in when we started, seems a century ago. The tragedy of Covid-19 is, in fact, one of those events that force us to push on the reset button. Where, in this case, “resetting” means the need to adjust what we are doing, and how and why we do it, considering what the Covid19 crisis has taught us and could still teach us. The double special issue of SDRJ we are presenting here goes in this direction.
... understand the status quo of the design project and contribute to a design with minimum effort. In recent years, an increasing number of academic papers have reported the success of open design projects in research labs or makerspaces [1][2][3]. In industry, as a consequence of the global Maker Movement, we have also seen firms using an open source model to design and develop their major products [4]. ...
... Understanding the history of RepRap development, together with the growth curve of 3 community indicators, we believe it is reasonable to claim that RepRap community has formed a horizontal innovation network fro, 2007 to 2014, since (1) there were highly motivated community members from either RepRap internal team or external amateurs actively sharing their designs and different level of improvement in Phases I and II, (2) in Phase III, the suppliers community members had enough incentive to improve the prototype level design and offer standardized components or kits, and (3) the emergence of offthe-shelf commercial 3D printers lowered the technological barriers of normal users to use the 3D printer, so tech savvy people could also join the community and learn. ...
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The engagement of an online user community has been reported to be critical in the success of open design projects. However, most studies don't consider the financial organizational contexts of their samples. Grounded in comparative case studies of the two biggest 3D printer communities-one supported by volunteers, another by a commercial firm, the paper contributes to the open design and open hardware literature with a typology of user community actions. We measured the types and intensity of different user community activities over time for the two cases. Results confirm that user community activities behave differently in profit-seeking or non-profit-seeking organizational contexts. We grounded potential causes through management team interviews as well as existing research theories. We conclude that the for-profit organizational context is associated with a difference in the design maturation process and the evolution of organizational openness.
... One stream emphasizes the project-based team formation and collaborative environment with resources often shared across organizational boundaries. These studies use the burgeoning maker phenomenon to extend our understanding of entrepreneurial teams and the creation of new organizations and jobs in the gig economy [13,14]. This literature describes the maker culture values of learning-by-doing, sharing, collaborating, and creativity, which may curate four unique characteristics of maker founders' entrepreneurial behaviors. ...
... While enterprises are focusing on the consulting services of these shared machine shops (in line with Menichinelli et. al. 2017), what makes these shops different from other business model schemes is the profit-constraint. Employees are paid wages, and express personal benefits of contributing to the work of the organization, as working for passion, stressing their dedication that imposes surplus working hours, beside other educational, teaching, or design-servic ...
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Shared machine shops are designed for providing space for education, learning practices, however it is also being questioned if they are accessible and for whom, depending on their location, communication practices and the entry-point in knowledge. Nonetheless the narrative of innovation and creativeness being attached to these spaces, the shades, openness or even absence of innovation is of a scholarly quest. Moreover, their function of enabling designers-entrepreneurs with infrastructure, collaborative practices and expertise is at the forefront. This paper looks at the composition of hybrid business models behind the activity of a set of shared machine shops: a fablab, a makerspace, a hackerspace, and printer-vendor company and how it may be linked to the education and innovation practices performed by the members and visitors. In search for if and how they represent dots of change on the landscape of design, this paper examines the facilities and opportunities for young designers, students, and makers to engage with digital technologies in Budapest, in a context where public schools and universities lack the access to fablabs and maker laboratories.
... For this reason, the main contributions about the work dimension of makers that were found in the literature review adopted in-depth interviews, focus groups and surveys as the main approach, and therefore are limited in scale and cannot be considered as representative of the whole movement. Joint Research Centre ( The Makers' Inquiry investigated the socio-technical and professional dimensions of makers in Italy, with a survey of 134 participants (Bianchini, Menichinelli, Maffei, Bombardi, & Carosi, 2015;Menichinelli, Bianchini, Carosi, & Maffei, 2017). Even with the limits in terms of participants and geographical focus, the research provided insights about at least three interesting issues related to this article. ...
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The practice of designers has recently evolved from a relatively closed ecosystem of professional actors to an ecosystem with less clear boundaries and roles. Makers can be considered (and often are) designers or a new kind of designers working with open, peer-to-peer, distributed and DIY approaches. And both makers and designers increasingly work with social innovation initiatives, becoming thus social entrepreneurs or collaborating with them. Where are makers, designers and social entrepreneurs, how many are there, how do we reach them and network them? This article presents a first exploration of literature, cases and datasets that represent direct or indirect approaches for mapping where they can be found. These formal or informal approaches are clustered in three groups: work, place and community. Each dimension generates a different perspective with different approaches and datasets, which influences our view and definition of makers, designers and social entrepreneurs.
... Consequently, we can observe that the demands for autonomous physical labor, collaborative communities and personal authority over technological knowledge by the maker culture might also enter and affect wider work practices. , Menichinelli, Bianchini, Carosi, and Maffei (2017) and Lindtner and Avle (2017) have begun to focus on the maker culture's potential effects on industrial companies, on labor processes and on the employees. This paper will take these perspectives as its starting point, investigating how certain ideas from the maker culture are recuperated by capitalism when being implemented in a German car company. ...
Chapter
This chapter offers an empirically grounded critique of a Norwegian technocare policy promising to emancipate the elderly from their dependency on the welfare state by enabling self-care through technology. Employing an adapted script approach, Tøndel and Seibt argue that such “welfare technology” is inscribed with a problematic representation of the world of care, which redistributes responsibility from the welfare state to a welfare industry and from care workers to the elderly themselves. The welfare-technology-script transforms a promise of emancipation into one of economic growth, requires care professionals to care increasingly for machines, and expects people in need of care to care more for themselves. Yet, despite the discriminatory potentials inscribed into welfare technology, care workers and the elderly often manage to repair the situation through practices of invisible work and creative misuse.
... Consequently, we can observe that the demands for autonomous physical labor, collaborative communities and personal authority over technological knowledge by the maker culture might also enter and affect wider work practices. Irani (2015), Menichinelli, Bianchini, Carosi, and Maffei (2017) and Lindtner and Avle (2017) have begun to focus on the maker culture's potential effects on industrial companies, on labor processes and on the employees. This paper will take these perspectives as its starting point, investigating how certain ideas from the maker culture are recuperated by capitalism when being implemented in a German car company. ...
Chapter
Full-text available
This paper discusses the recuperation of emancipatory principles of the maker culture in the context of labor organization. By examining an event for prototyping (the ‘makeathon’), the paper illustrates how emancipatory demands were co-opted in capitalist innovation processes. Makeathons represent the recuperation of emancipation as they provide testing fields for organizing innovation labor differently. They are connected to the maker culture that calls for autonomous physical labor, collaborative communities and personal authority over technological knowledge. Yet, industrial companies have started to adopt such events for changing current innovation processes. The paper argues that the recuperation is mediated by the introduction of organizational control, collective control and self-control. The makeathon can be interpreted as an instance for the manufacturing of consent that might entail new and often conflicting work requirements.
Chapter
This pictorial seeks to capture both the tangible and intangible aspects of site visits to Makerspaces situated in rural India. While over twenty-five Makerspaces across four regions were documented through conversational interviews, photography, sketching and reflective writing for the project, only a small selection of this wealth of visual and factual information, with a particular focus on rural locations, has been compiled in this pictorial. It provides a rich tapestry of Indian maker cultures, their contribution to local communities, and how these spaces interpret their role as facilitators of creation within the complex global narratives of sustainability.KeywordsMaker culturesSustainabilityCommunity engagementDigital makingMateriality
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In an age of open source, custom-fabricated, DIY product design, all you need to conquer the world is a brilliant idea. Photo: Dan Winters The door of a dry-cleaner-size storefront in an industrial park in Wareham, Massachusetts, an hour south of Boston, might not look like a portal to the future of American manufacturing, but it is. This is the headquarters of Local Motors, the first open source car company to reach production. Step inside and the office reveals itself as a mind-blowing example of the power of micro-factories. In June, Local Motors will officially release the Rally Fighter, a $50,000 off-road (but street-legal) racer. The design was crowdsourced, as was the selection of mostly off-the-shelf components, and the final assembly will be done by the customers themselves in local assembly centers as part of a "build experience." Several more designs are in the pipeline, and the company says it can take a new vehicle from sketch to market in 18 months, about the time it takes Detroit to change the specs on some door trim. Each design is released under a share-friendly Creative Commons license, and customers are encouraged to enhance the designs and produce their own components that they can sell to their peers. The Rally Fighter was prototyped in the workshop at the back of the Wareham office, but manufacturing muscle also came from Factory Five Racing, a kit-car company and Local Motors investor located just down the road. Of course, the kit-car business has been around for decades, standing as a proof of concept for how small manufacturing can work in the car industry. Kit cars combine hand-welded steel tube chassis and fiberglass bodies with stock engines and accessories. Amateurs assemble the cars at their homes, which exempts the vehicles from many regulatory restrictions (similar to home-built experimental aircraft). Factory Five has sold about 8,000 kits to date. One problem with the kit-car business, though, is that the vehicles are typically modeled after famous racing and sports cars, making lawsuits and license fees a constant burden. This makes it hard to profit and limits the industry's growth, even in the face of the DIY boom. Jay Rogers, CEO of Local Motors, saw a way around this. His company opted for totally original designs: They don't evoke classic cars but rather reimagine what a car can be. The Rally Fighter's body was designed by Local Motors' community of volunteers and puts the lie to the notion that you can't create anything good by committee (so long as the community is well managed, well led, and well equipped with tools like 3-D design software and photorealistic rendering technology). The result is a car that puts Detroit to shame. It is, first of all, incredibly cool-looking — a cross between a Baja racer and a P-51 Mustang fighter plane. Given its community provenance, one might have expected something more like a platypus. But this process was no politburo. Instead, it was a competition. The winner was Sangho Kim, a 30-year-old graphic artist and student at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. When Local Motors asked its community to submit ideas for next-gen vehicles, Kim's sketches and renderings captivated the crowd. There wasn't supposed to be a prize, but the company gave Kim $10,000 anyway. As the community coalesced around his Rally Fighter, members competed to develop secondary parts, from the side vents to the light bar. Some were designers, some engineers, and others just car hobbyists. But what they had in common was a refusal to design just another car, compromised by mass-market needs and convention. They wanted to make something original — a fantasy car come to life. While the community crafted the exterior, Local Motors designed or selected the chassis, engine, and transmission thanks to relationships with companies like Penske Automotive Group, which helped the firm source everything from dashboard dials to the new BMW clean diesel engine the Rally Fighter will use. This combination — have the pros handle the elements that are critical to performance, safety, and manufacturability while the community designs the parts that give the car its shape and style — allows crowdsourcing to work even for a product whose use has life-and-death implications.
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Software is just the beginning … open source is doing for mass innovation what the assembly line did for mass production. Get ready for the era when collaboration replaces the corporation. Cholera is one of those 19th-century ills that, like consumption or gout, at first seems almost quaint, a malady from an age when people suffered from maladies. But in the developing world, the disease is still widespread and can be gruesomely lethal. When cholera strikes an unprepared community, people get violently sick immediately. On day two, severe dehydration sets in. By day seven, half of a village might be dead. Since cholera kills by driving fluids from the body, the treatment is to pump liquid back in, as fast as possible. The one proven technology, an intravenous saline drip, has a few drawbacks. An easy-to-use, computer-regulated IV can cost $2,000 -far too expensive to deploy against a large outbreak. Other systems cost as little as 35 cents, but they're too complicated for unskilled caregivers. The result: People die unnecessarily. "It's a health problem, but it's also a design problem," says Timothy Prestero, a onetime Peace Corps volunteer who cofounded a group called Design That Matters. Leading a team of MIT engineering students, Prestero, who has master's degrees in mechanical and oceanographic engineering, focused on the drip chamber and pinch valve controlling the saline flow rate.