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Poland: empty space on the map of the global maker movement?

Maker movement in Poland is a new phenomenon and, despite its big potential, it is not yet very popular. The most active centersof the maker movement in Poland are concentrated in: Warsaw, the Upper Silesia agglomeration, the Tri-City (of Gdańsk, Gdynia and Sopot), Łódź, Kraków and Poznań. Only 13 organizations related to the maker movement are registered on the https://www.fablabs.io/labs?country=pl website. In reality, there are considerably more such organizations in Poland, as can be seen when attending the events which are held for such organizations. These organizations operate as foundations, associations, social cooperatives or (student) academic/scientific circles.

In Poland, involvement in the global maker movement is relatively small. Polish organizations which identify themselves in some way with the fablab movement rarely have any direct contact with such organizations from other countries because they do not believe that such contact is necessary. They regard their activities as local activities only, and therefore focus on working with a relatively narrow group of makers (whom they already know), as well as with organizations who are partners (local enterprises or local government organizations). Up to now there has not been even one Maker Faire as officially endorsed by the Maker Magazine. Maker communities usually define themselves as groups which consist of highly qualified and talented “outsiders from normal society” who enjoy only their own company. That is why the representatives of Fablabs insist that advanced social skills, which make it possible to create an integrated micro-community, are so significant for the further development of the maker movement in Poland.

Those coordinating fablabs above all believe that they are local animators of groups of people who are passionately interested in developing themselves in a practical way in terms of technical knowledge and its practical usage. However at the same time, we can see that Polish makers are nevertheless fascinated by certain ideas which are appearing and being developed in the context of the global maker movement (especially the ideas of openness and innovativeness, as understood in a wide sense). We see that the Polish language lacks expressions which make it possible to describe the nature of this movement, the idea behind its existence, and particular activities. In order to be able to describe what the maker movement actually is, Poles are forced to use terms which come from the English language, as there are not yet such fully understood equivalents in the Polish language. For a Polish person who is not aware of the specific nature of the global ideology and reality of how the maker movement works, such terms cannot be understand, which sometimes creates a barrier when it comes to looking for an external partner for a fablab in Poland. In the course of ordinary, every day conversations, many of those who make use of Polish fablabs use terms which come from the Polish language, and which therefore seem to them to be more natural, but do not in fact fully transfer the meanings of the global English terminology. For example, in Poland, few people know the differences between so-called makerspaces, FabLabs and hackerspaces.

The most active centers of the maker movement try to integrate the environment (provide activists with the opportunity to share experiences with one another and to help each other) and their striving for this integration is perceived as the crucial value. Especially the Fablab Łódź and the Fablab at the Copernicus Science Center make attempts to fulfill this mission. The center in Łodź organizes events to which the representatives of other Polish centers of the maker movement, representatives of the academic environment, sympathizers and serious makers of the movement are invited. Each of these events can be very different in character from the previous one. For example the event called “The Makers’ Night”, which we observed, was this type of the event. During the last event of this nature, several hundred people who were more or less related to the maker movement participated. The FabLab operating at the Copernicus Science Center organizes a cyclical integration event called Hackathon.

Within the activities of maker movement centers, it is possible to recognize three main types of organizational aims that occur in various proportions in the case of every organization:

  1. educational: concentrating on the broadly understood popularization of knowledge (most frequently technical knowledge);
  2. inventive: focusing on constructing innovative prototypes of devices and products;
  3. revitalizing and cultural: concentrating on the reconstruction and digital archiving of forgotten traditional productive techniques, sometimes defined as ethnographical intervention activities.

It seems that the dominant model of relations among the maker movement, the manufacturing sector and the academic environment is a non-formal cooperation which is based on personal relationships. Mutual cooperation develops best when representatives of enterprises or the academic world are involved with makers. For many makers in Poland, their activities are a source of pride and so a source of great personal satisfaction. When such people actually work at the same time in two completely different social worlds, then they: can better understand the advantages arising out of absorbing the idea of open source into the world of innovative industries; and can create links with maker communities which are based on trust and cooperation which is satisfying for both sides.

Those entrepreneurs who themselves have relationships with the maker movement emphasize the fact that, in the maker movement centers, there is an exceptional atmosphere; that there is real commitment to carrying out the required work and that there is a great community spirit. They clearly feel that the environment in maker centers is quite different in terms of fostering creativity compared to even the most egalitarian version of corporate culture in commercial companies. But it is a serious problem to maintain the required continuity in such relationships, especially over a long period of time, and it is also a problem to work out an effective economic business model for the maker movement centers.

Author: Prof. Maciej Witkowski (WSB University)

 

 

IS THE MAKER COMMUNITY UNCLASSIFIABLE?

Imagine an extremely ground-breaking technology or scientific field that is really hard to classify. Imagine a group of experts, early adopters, influencers, technologists and even academics working in this area, which lies between two very different scientific fields. Imagine we want to identify the points where these fields and the clusters created through interactions between the aforementioned experts converge. How could we identify and classify the existing community that is working in that field? How could we identify the leaders and experts working on these technologies or in an unclassified scientific field, or outside the purely scientific-technological sphere? How can we create a cluster for this group in order to show the value of their work and make known the technology or scientific field in which they work?

In this article we will try to answer these questions using as a reference technology or a technological field that is hard to classify, and in which many groups of people work nowadays without a clearly defined scientific-technological representation or characterisation.

We are talking about the MAKER COMMUNITY, which works with social technologies like Open Hardware and Open Software. These technologies, often classified as part of Industrial Engineering or Design, have a community that is classified and studied as part of the field of Social Sciences.

 

As we mentioned earlier, the fact that this community lacks a clear scientific-technological categorisation makes it difficult to identify experts to be followed, leaders, or simply clusters in this field. What’s more, the fact that the field is kind of a hybrid between two worlds makes it even more difficult to detect relevant communities.

We call it a hybrid field because when we talk about the Maker Community, it is studied as part of Social Sciences because the movements that are studied are the “Do It Yourself” movement, collaborative work, the Open philosophy, etc. However, from a technological point of view, the Maker Community is studied as part of Industrial Engineering or Design, or Computer Engineering, which includes the study of free software, 3D or additive printing, Open technologies and the Internet of Things, etc. We see, therefore, that it is a hybrid field that is hard to classify, in which, because of its nature and the fact that its technologies and communities are so recent, it is difficult to identify experts, leaders and clusters or communities to help make them known and classify them scientifically.

How could we try to identify these groups, experts, scientific leaders who are working in large or small communities, with more or less structure, then? We can find the answer in the analysis of Social Media.

A few authors have tried to identify these communities based on their origins. As Andreas Hepp said in his article “Pioneer Communities: Collective Actors in Deep Mediatisation” (Hepp, 2016), it is hard to identify the origins of the (pioneering) Maker community. It may stem from the hacker movement in the 1980s, but at OD&M we don’t agree with the author when he says that the social domain is largely oriented towards manufacturing and that the community revolves around this, because as we mentioned earlier, it is a hybrid community in which we shouldn’t just focus on the industrial or manufacturing side of things.

The identification of these communities, therefore, must not be based on one industrial field only – we should broaden our scope and focus on connections, links and relationships that are established in these communities.

Identifying these communities by analysing social media is logical and natural because the networks that are formed within these communities (technological, industrial, social, etc.) can be monitored perfectly on social media.

As Silvia Lindtner explains in her article “Hackerspaces and the Internet of Things in China: How Makers are Reinventing Industrial Production, Innovation, and the Self” (Lindtner, 2014), the Maker movements use social media extensively to carry out their activity because it is in their DNA, in the nature of their collaborative work.

In another article, “Hacking with Chinese Characteristics: The Promises of the Maker Movement against China’s Manufacturing Culture” (Lindtner, 2015), Lindtner explains how the Maker movement in China has created a manufacturing culture (producers, designers, assemblers, etc.) which mainly relates over social media. This proves that the field is more than industrial and that is it possible to monitor it on social media.

So in order to detect these Maker communities and analyse their spillover effect or to see how far they reach in order to characterise them, we would have to identify the main actors (FabLabs, MakerSpace, HackerSpace, LivingLabs, etc.) which would be the hubs, and analyse on social media (Facebook and Twitter, mainly) the relationships with other agents (these would logically be the links).

These relationships could be followers on Twitter and friends on Facebook, for example. In order to identify possible actors that are not identified through relationships or links, we would have to establish which specific hashtags the community uses in order to monitor them and identify relevant actors. These hashtags would be #maker #open #diy, or something similar.

Once the relationships between the main actors and rest of actors was analysed, we would be able to measure and define the real network of this field and see how it overlaps with other scientific-technological fields. These results might show the need to define a specific category for this extremely hybrid scientific-technological field, which could be categorised as Social Technology.

The focus of the analysis of the Maker community from the point of view of social media would clearly give the scientific community a holistic view and would demonstrate the huge overlapping nature of the this field, and the more than probable need to bring together knowledge and cooperate in future study of this field, in order to:

1) Make the subject known.

2) Create clusters that can defend the interests of experts working in this field.

3) Create curricula in a field that is not currently defined.

This is the OD&M project framework’s approach to the identification of Maker clusters and communities.

Autor: Jorge García (Tecnalia)

  • IS THE MAKER COMMUNITY UNCLASSIFIABLE? (Spanish version)