Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Few Thoughts on the Maker Movement

A short article popped up at Shareable this weekend rephrasing some of the over-arching issues that explain how and why collaborative consumption, the maker movement, informal economies, etc. should be understood as something more than a trend, and instead, a quiet and steady r/evolution in how the world is and could be produced and shared. Thanks to a rise in a networked society, which is providing free or low-cost, instant access to open platform technical, fiscal and intellectual resources, we're now able to engage in personal- and community-based production in ways never experienced before. Specifically, the self-producers of the world, which were historically isolated from one another, are now producing at higher levels and collaborating in ways that are making real inroads on what society consumes. And whether intentionally or not, are prodding us to think about how we make our consumer decisions.

On one hand these collaborations are enabling self-sustaining mini economies to take hold or at a minimum, to be rigorously explored. (Think Smorgasbord). What's particularly interesting to me is that with these burgeoning, bottoms up options that are becoming available, issues like ethics, impact, and quality of life are giving price point a run for its money as decision-making criteria. On a more practical note, collaborative economies are reducing the need for middlemen, which helps keep prices and material use lower. And for consumers we're finding we don't have to be passive recipients of whatever the market dictates but have more value-aligning options and negotiating power around the stuff we want surrounding our lives.

The article offers the possibility that from this self-organizing and -producing approach, there could come more sustainable models of production and consumption. While applicable everywhere, there could be important implication for societies that lack the wherewithal to work with more traditional or institutionalized modes of production. I see this in my own neighborhoods throughout Pittsburgh where folks like DIY'ers and small-scale farmers are able to pay their bills through collaborative enterprises while exposing the community to some alternative consumer options--ones that say, whether deliberately or not, here is a way to do less damage or this is a more delightful way to go about living a life. I'm hopeful reading this article, knowing that competent visionaries and public facing figures are taking a step back to consider and communicate the implications of this shifting state towards collaboration.

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