Made by Hand. An interview with Mark Frauenfelder

(questa la trovate anche in Italiano nel post originale su Openwear)

[This is one is originally published on Openwear]

Mark Frauenfelder is co-founder and editor of the seminal technology blog Boing Boing and editor-in-chief of Make Magazine, the DIY journal that has been at the core of the US makers movements in the last years. He is author of several books, the last of whom is “Made by hand. Searching for meaning in a throwaway world”. We have interviewed him about the Makers scene and its social and economic consequences.

Bertram Niessen: DIY comes as no surprise, but in the last ten years a lot of things have changed. New technologies have reshaped the ways we conceive both material and immaterial forms of production and circulation. What do you think are the main changes from the point of view of everyday culture? Is there a shift in the perception of ordinary people about the relationship between mass production and DIY?

Mark Frauenfelder: Yes, with the new technologies (rapid prototyping) and access to information (the internet) ordinary people are able to make stuff that just ten years ago would have been very difficult and expensive.

Bertram Niessen: In the last few years the term “Makers culture” is getting more and more popular. Do you think it makes sense to call it a “culture”? Is it a scene that really share some values and not only some practices?

Mark Frauenfelder: I would call it a “movement” rather than a “culture,” because there are so many different kinds of enthusiasts involved. They don’t all share the same skill sets and interests.

Bertram Niessen: In Europe there is a quite clear distinction between the DIY grassroots attitude that came from social movements of the ’90s (i.e. in the case of Hacklabs) and a more “neutral” one that is related to the start-ups movement of the last ten years. Do you have noticed something similar also in the US? Do you have the impression that it worths while to talk about political connotations of DIY?

Mark Frauenfelder: The DIY movement in the US in not really politically motivated. I have seen makers together who are of opposing political sides and yet they get along very well while working together.

Bertram Niessen: I think that one of the most interesting phenomena related to the new DIY is that there is the tendency to create organizations and networks that not only group DIYers but also provide them services (I’m thinking about websites like Ponoko or 100k Garages). Do you think that this can be considered as the emergence of a new kind of grassroots economy? How do you see its development in the future?

Mark Frauenfelder: Ponoko, Shapeways, and those kinds of services, along with hacker spaces, are opening up all sorts of new possibilities for entrepreneurs. 20 years ago the software pioneers where changing the economy, and I think the next 20 could be about physical makers changing the economy.

Bertram Niessen: Open source and P2p are common references in the world of DIY, but they are not mandatory. How do you see the connection among these three worlds?

Mark Frauenfelder: In my experiences, makers are very generous with their ideas and inventions. It very much goes against the stereotype of the secretive inventor who is afraid someone will steal his or her idea.

Bertram Niessen: What are the main differences between the lonesome garage geek and more structured processes of co-design and co-creation?

Mark Frauenfelder: The lonesome garage geek is at one end of the spectrum. Most makers I know like to at least stay in touch with others in their field.

Bertram Niessen: DIY technologies and fields are increasingly cross-fertilizing: tools made with the RapRap are used for DIYbio; Arduino, that has been conceived for interactive art, is now used for flying drones. What do you think about it? How do you see the future from this point of view?

Mark Frauenfelder: It’s exciting to see cross-pollination like this. I believe we are in for some real surprises in the next few years.


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