There's been widespread interest in new digital fabrication opportunities for quite a while now - and I'm not just talking about 3D printing a gun or 3D printing your face in chocolate. There are Hackspace, Makespaces, Techshops and Fablabs popping up all over the world, and books about the implications of what is being termed the next Industrial revolution.
Activity around micro-manufacturing techniques is emerging in lots of different disciplines - from educators to individuals to entrepreneurs, to make-spaces to manufacturers - and we've been thinking for a while that it would be mutually beneficial to connect all these disparate parties. After our FutureMakers day back in June, people told us how inspiring and useful it had been to connect with communities that they wouldn't normally have access to. It turned out that the network that we created by bringing people together was the thing that was most valued.
So... that got us thinking. How could we keep those connections going? Could we create a digital platform that supports all the amazing real world activity that's out there? It made sense to us, but in order to check that we were on the right track, we needed to find out what was needed from our potential community itself.
Tom from Swarm summing up the day's activities
We gathered together representatives from as many different interests and age groups as possible, to start a process of co-creating a digital platform which will be the mainstay of a network to connect all those working in the making sphere. We held the workshop last Monday at Makerversity, and the fabulous Tom and Dan at Swarm (who are also Good for Nothing), helped us run the event.
We asked participants to bring an image/photo/sketch of something they'd made and/or something they would like to make in the future. 35 people came and brought pictures of boats, sustainable phones, treehouses, crocheted turnips, hard drive cases and objects made from sparkly plastic.
The ideas flowed thick and fast - we started making connections really quickly between people who needed advice about manufacturing, setting up a business, where and what to study, how to make a certain object; 9 times out of 10 there were people in the room who could directly help. Tom and Dan set group tasks which helped us work out what we would like to see from our ideal online network. Maps, profiles, sharing of work, giving of advice, discussion; we started seeing the value of this network before the morning was out.
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Drawing one of the day's many diagrams
Hilary, Jim and I are now taking all the drawings, diagrams and questions from the first session and have begun to flesh out what a digital prototype might look like, before taking it back to the group in early November. We're looking for a few more people with experience or interest in manufacturing to join us, so please get in touch if you would like to take part in helping us to co-create an incredibly useful tool for this exciting emerging community.
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