With the festive season just beginning online marketplaces are booming, fuelled by both a growth in ‘makers’ and the number of people who want to buy unique, handcrafted goods. In a report published today, the RSA says this ‘maker movement’ is not just a hobbyist craze but a deeper reaction to the technological upheaval shaping our lives.
The report, 'Ours to Master: How makerspaces can help us master technology for a more human end', says that as workers our jobs are increasingly at risk due to automation, while as consumers we are presented with evermore sophisticated devices that we struggle to understand.
Commenting on the study, author Benedict Dellot, RSA Senior Researcher said:
“A key question for the 21st century is this: do we have technology or does technology have us? New tools once enhanced the way we consume, work and play – yet now the benefits are not so clear-cut. Artificial intelligence, the internet of things, 3D printers, social network platforms – all have the potential to overwhelm society as much as to improve it.
Against this backdrop we are seeing people come together in collective workshops to create, fix and modify everyday objects. Why? Because making is one way for people to regain control over technology. It doesn’t matter whether that means crafting jewellery, creating furniture or tinkering with electronics – all are novel acts of making that develop people’s understanding of complex tools and give them a feeling of being ‘in control’ that may be elusive within their day to day lives”.
The report found that there are now more than 100 sites in the UK that self-identify as makerspaces, and their number is continuing to grow. Yet makerspaces are more than just places to craft objects, the report says. They are also sites to experiment with a different way of living and promote important values, such as self-reliance and sustainability. The RSA highlights the example of MadLab in Manchester, which hosts workshops teaching people how to eco-retrofit houses, and Fab Lab Barcelona’s Smart Citizen initiative, which encourages the city’s households to monitor the city’s air and noise pollution.
The RSA’s Director of Economics, Enterprise and Manufacturing, Tony Greenham said: “The maker movement is more than the sum of its parts. For all the benefits it brings to individuals’ fulfilment, skills and opportunities for enterprise, the collaborative ethos of maker spaces is also a social glue that strengthens communities. This is a movement that shows how we can master technology together.”
The future of makerspaces is still uncertain, the RSA says. But the YouGov survey found that as many as a quarter (24 percent) of GB adults say they would be interested in using a makerspace in future. Converting just a fraction of these into users, the report says, would transform makerspaces into mainstream creative hubs of making, learning and enterprise
In Ours To Master: how makerspaces can help us master technology for a more human end the research found that the makerspaces enable people to use tools for three purposes:
The therapeutic effects of making have been well documented. Multiple studies show that the act of creating and fixing things can stem cognitive decline and help people control their emotions. But the making activity that occurs within makerspaces may also imbue people with a deeper sense of meaning and a feeling of ‘being in control’ that is elusive within their day to day lives.
Close to 70 percent of makerspaces are believed to offer formal classes to users, while just over 60 percent have their own school programmes. There are introductions to 3D printing, bootcamps for Arduino, masterclasses in throwing clay and even classes in so-called ‘mind hacking’. It is common for makerspace members to find employment as a direct result of the skills they have picked up on site.
Makerspaces can help people turn their ideas into marketable products and in doing so establish viable maker businesses. In most cases, entrepreneurs will use tools to rapidly create prototypes of goods that can be made in bulk elsewhere. Examples of businesses using makerspaces in this way include producers of surgical equipment, boat repair technicians, and camera designers.
The finding are backed by a YouGov survey of 2,034 UK adults in September 2015 commissioned by the RSA. Its key results are:
- 43 percent of people often feel confused by technological change and struggle to keep up.
- 26 percent make things for their own use, 49 percent fix things that are broken, and 21 percent modify things they have bought to better suit their needs.
- 57 percent would like to learn how to make more things they and their families could use.
- 61 percent would like to have a better understanding of how the things they use work.
- 78 percent think our society is too materialistic and our economy too dependent on consumerism.
- 1 percent currently use a makerspace / hackspace, but an additional 24 percent say they would be interested in doing so.
- 21 percent think capitalism is fundamentally flawed and requires a radical change.
Notes to editors
1. Makerspaces are open access workshops hosting a variety of new and old tools – from 3D printers and laser cutters through to sewing machines and potter’s wheels.
2. Arduino is an open-source electronic prototyping platform allowing to create interactive electronic objects.
3. For more information contact RSA Interim Head of Media Sarah Horner via firstname.lastname@example.org or on 020 7451 6893 / 07799 737 970
4. Twitter: @theRSAorg #RSAMakers
5. Website: www.thersa.org/makerspaces