WHAT HAPPENS when you give a third grader a power drill? With some wood and a little supervision, she'll make her own keepsake box. Or, put her in that same space with a soldering iron, copper tape, LEDs and a circuit board, and she'll learn firsthand how to direct the power of electricity. The Underground Studio at THEMUSEUM in Kitchener brings kids, parents and teachers together regularly to tinker, build, design and create. We visited them on a day they were making gumball machines. All around us we saw kids of varying ages comfortably using all kinds of items from power tools to markers. And the best part? They were participating in the maker revolution.
All over the world, a new maker culture is reinventing what older readers may have experienced as Do It Yourself. It's a burgeoning network of "makerspaces"--physical spaces operated by community members where tool libraries, training and collaboration combine to bring the process of production back to local hands. This year, Hackerspaces.org reported 1336 of these makerspaces active worldwide, with 355 opening soon. It's a growing movement, and it's only getting bigger.
This resurgence of making comes at the same time as the increasing popularity of online marketplaces, the online sharing economy, innovations in creation like 3D printers and a mass movement towards knowledge freedom and sharing with projects like Wikipedia, open source and Massive Open Online Courses. In 2015, members of Etsy, the online marketplace for handmade products, sold $3.21 billion in merchandise, while sharing services such as Uber (car sharing) and Airbnb (home sharing) are worth over $66 billion and $30 billion (both $US) respectively.
With over 135 million adult makers in the US alone, and over 2000 planned or active makerspaces worldwide, maker communities show a thriving new future of production. Makers are finding ways to bring local production together with new technology, a task that many in the past thought impossible.
Every society that has experienced a capitalistic reorganization of labour has experienced positive and negative outcomes. In the West and in places like China and India, capitalism has brought about unprecedented material affluence and rising standards of living.
This organization of society has also provided the framework for rationalized legal systems, more liberal social mores, greater democracy, and the consolidation of universally recognized human rights. But, modernization and capitalism have also involved recurring trade-offs, most evidently in relation to the global ecological crisis but also, a pervasive "crisis of meaning."
Since the 18th century and the Industrial Revolution, capitalist modernization has transformed the entire world. Karl Marx famously wrote about one main negative aspect of this modernity, that is, alienation from work. Where once individuals produced an entire chair to be proud of, they now work on an assembly line contributing just one screw. He believed this alienation from work leaves individuals feeling empty.
Perhaps the darkest and most extreme symptom of this crisis can be found in the prevalent Chinese industrial suicide Issue, exemplified in the 2012 suicide...