More than the sum of makers: the Complex Dynamics of Diverse Practises at Maker Faire
We studied two Maker Faires to gain a better understanding of the complex dynamics that makers operate in. By capturing the voices of the visitors, organisers and exhibiting makers of the events, the paper explores how they related to each other.
Our study involved participation in both Maker Faires, which helped us collect data, frame our analysis and shape our understanding of the results. At both events we hosted a maker stall that was part exhibition and part a hands-on activity in DIY-electronics, and people sent us photographs of what they made.
The findings illustrate how the event is co-created at the nexus of different technological, social and economic interests while leaving space for diverse practices.
We argue that it is important to deepen HCI’s understanding of the Maker Movement and the social complexity within the structures that different stakeholders co-create.
This research is a first focused qualitative analysis of Maker Faire, which probes it as a site for HCI research and discusses how more holistic perspectives on the Maker Movement could create new research opportunities.
We captured the different voices of visitors, event organisers and exhibiting makers in order to describe their respective interests in Maker Faire. We highlighted how they related to each other and collectively shaped the event.
We found the Maker Faire showed a complex dynamic between a top-down structure and its bottom-up use. It was something that was actively designed, curated and promoted. At the same time, it was highly dependent on who was participating and why.
The co-creation of Maker Faire gives specific opportunities for makers and those who want to become makers. However, depending on who decides to exhibit, Maker Faire’s representation of the maker scene can be flawed and incomplete.
We also noted some diversity issues. While a diverse set of skills and knowledges is shown, there are prevalent issues with other kinds of diversity and inclusion.
MAKER FAIRE AS A SITE FOR HCI RESEARCH
This study probed Maker Faire as an interesting yet challenging context for conducting HCI research. While Maker Faire is an event explicitly about Making, our findings showed how it involves not only makers but also many other stakeholders.
The huge amount of people attending the event can cause problems for an effective study design, and we found that small changes in design can have a significant impact on how the study evolves. Our hands-on activity attracted many families, children and women of all ages – which was unintentional, and likely related to the design of the activity.
FUTURE DIRECTIONS FOR RESEARCH AROUND MAKER FAIRE
In future work, we intended to discuss the data in even more detail and investigate the fit of conceptual framings that deal with macro-micro-dynamics on a more theoretical level.
As far as we are aware nobody has yet discussed the Maker Movement in relation to the wider concept of landscapes of practice. Based on the study outcomes, we see a good opportunity to do so.
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