On maker culture

Once again, Melissa Gregg:

The difference with making today is the source of the cultural and financial investment, namely Silicon Valley. The notion that ‘everyone is a maker’ keeps the hacker ethos alive while drawing on the more recent elevation of ‘you’ as the active pro-sumer. In addition, venture capital and media coverage translate to serious corporate and institutional resources. If ‘make do and mend’ served the propaganda needs of a state-sanctioned war machine, it was ideological state apparatuses (education primarily) that determined the curriculum and gender norms for home economics vs. trade classes.

Today’s maker ‘movement’ is an evangelist’s response to the deficiencies of the state. The standardization of schooling to meet performance metrics has led to a drain on the manual and creative aspects of education, such that learning is limited to knowledge that can be tested. This is one way that data exerts agency on institutions. Metrics matter more than content. By contrast, maker kits and a culture of making beyond the classroom each offer a solution to pedagogical anemia, a set of tools for an emerging trade.

The broader impact of off-shoring in the US economy has turned manufacturing into a problem: when it exists at all, (non-creative) making is outsourced to the so-called developing world.

Lots to say about this.

Idealizing and romanticizing “making” is nothing new, from Plato onward. With Marx, this kind of thinking took on an especially political tint, and after Ruskin an aesthetic one. Since the 19th century, we’ve had DIY movements of various kinds from Arts and Crafts to Punk. That said, the question of why now is a good one and these are compelling points, but the idea that valorizing maker culture is only a neoliberal complement to austerity might be overlooking the long history of pastoralizing around “making” including not least Richard Sennett’s beautiful but extremely Ruskinian The Craftsman.