Articles and media

Renaissance 4.0

By Laura Martelloni | LAMA

Increasingly, our world is characterized by complexity, fragmentation and disruption.

While traditional systems of social, economic and political organization are being relentlessly eroded under the pressure of endogenous and global challenges, we are witnessing the rise of demands of innovation driven by social and environmental instances, where citizens call for an active and central role in shaping what is needed and meaningful to them.

Though it opens to a number of different approaches, models and scenarios of application, social innovation takes its root in this overall citizens-driven ‘theory of change’, grounding innovation at the crossroad between participation, co-creation and common good, and placing them as core engines for inclusive and sustainable growth.

All across the globe, we are seeing open and fluid groups of people organizing in ubiquitous communities around missions of social change, using physical and digital spaces and tools to unlock the inventiveness of peer to peer and horizontal collaboration.

Whether officially branded or defined by their founding nature and narrative, whether intentionally built on specific working, governance and business models or left in the hands of self-regulation and self-sustaining, these movements are becoming mainstream in shaping new infrastructures of innovation oriented to the common good and shared value.

The Impact Hub Network, FabLabs and Living Labs are major examples, providing unedited innovation models based on open access rather than on property, on shared values, and on an overall positioning that, while operating locally, is often oriented to global challenges and performed with an international breath. Almost unexpectedly, they are drawing an alternative to the dogmas of public and private sectors as places driving change, and are contributing to reinvent the how we look at and experience the ‘new’.

Transformative collective actions do not only need strong motivations. Increasingly, they require the design of unedited environments capable of hosting a highly connected, interactive and collaborative human network. They require ideation, discovery and creation processes able to navigate across chaos and order, divergence and convergence, shifting well beyond control and linearity. They require new frameworks for people to convene, build mutual trust and, ultimately, engage in common projects. All in all, they require to move from a rhetoric based on outputs and outcomes, to value a narrative based on experience.

Today, we are in front of the 4th Industrial revolution. Networks, economy of collaboration, artificial intelligence, digital fabrication and big data on the one hand, and growing societal concerns on the other hand, are putting a major question mark at the horizon of our productive model. The question is if and to what extent it can adapt to this changing scenario not only preserving jobs, but rather driving growth and wealth benefitting all.

If scenarios and effects are yet to be understood, the evidence is that production is now unhooking from the sole domain of economic actors and stakeholders, to become a lab of collective experimentation.

Driven by unprecedented technological capabilities and values of openness, sharing and collaboration, growing movements of people and organizations across the globe are experimenting with a radically new generation of methods, practices and organizational forms to develop sustainable and socially innovative products and services. With strong commitment to open-source principles, democratic participation and transparency, such movements are ‘marking a growing transition from the closed company and cluster logic towards shared and democratised innovation across an open network of companies and hubs’ (Johar, 2016).

We use makers and open manufacturing as the memes of this emerging world, and despite complex identities, these terms call for an opportunity: that of creating a future that embeds democracy in production and inclusion in innovation.

So, how can we accelerate this transition?

For some time now, we have realized that our near-to-7 billion people world is actually a small one. As beautifully highlighted by Barabasi (2002), scientists have been recently learning to map our interconnectivity, pointing to the extent to which we are all connected to each other within a ‘complex universal puzzle’. While this seems to confirm that no man is an island, scientists and network experts have also revealed something that, for many centuries in human history, has remained little more than an intuition: every person is a door to a different world, but there are persons that open to much more worlds than others.

Surprisingly, new insights on complex networks such as the human brain, natural ecosystems, transport networks, the Internet and our global human network are putting the spotlight on a recurrent architecture, unveiling the existence of precise patterns and rules according to which such networks form, evolve and act.

Now we know that most complex networks are characterized by hubs — highly connected nodes that keep together all the others -, and that their presence within a networked system allows the latter to thrive. We know that influencers — whether they act in real or digital environments — play a crucial role in spreading ideas and innovations, and that the network topology within which they act is a crucial element to predict the diffusion and adoption of such ideas and innovations. Increasingly in our Internet of everything society, we know that the border between real and digital life is tiny, enabling information that is invisible offline to become visible, allowing for unforeseeable discoveries.

Nowadays, networks are almost mainstream in the vocabulary of innovation. What remains yet untapped, however, is our capacity to decipher and interpret innovation as a result of a complex network of social and economic interactions, driven by specific systems of values and beliefs, and capable of self-organization, adaptation to turbulences, and learning.

We now have the unprecedented opportunity to create a new Renaissance. Against individualism and anthropocentric visions, innovation governance frameworks based on networks and on human relations can steer radically new patterns of change, enabling a collective, distributed project of self-empowerment towards innovations driven by the common good.

Retrieved from Medium (June 2017)


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

By Prof. Maciej Witkowski | WSB University

The Maker movement in Poland is a relatively new phenomenon. The most active makerspaces in the country can be found in Warsaw, the Upper Silesia agglomeration, the Tri-City (Gdańsk, Gdynia and Sopot), Łódź, Kraków and Poznań. To date, only 13 makerspaces are registered on the website. However, we can still find a relevant number of organizations across Poland that are experimenting with the maker culture, such as foundations, associations, social cooperatives or (student) academic/scientific circles.

The involvement of Polish makers in the global maker movement appears as relatively weak. Polish makers and makerspaces rarely have direct contacts with such organizations from other countries because they do not believe that such contact is necessary. They mainly look at their activities as local ones, and they tend to work with small groups of makers, as well as with local enterprises or local government organizations. To date, there has not been even one Maker Faire officially endorsed by the Maker Magazine. Maker communities usually define themselves as groups consisting of highly qualified and talented “outsiders from normal society” . That is why the representatives of Fablabs insist that advanced social skills, which make it possible to create a vibrant micro-community, are so significant for the further development of the maker movement in Poland.

Makerspaces coordinators often see themselves as local animators of groups of people who are passionately interested in applying technical knowledge and skills in a practical way. However, we can see that Polish makers are fascinated by the key values and principles that characterize the global maker movement, such as openness and innovation. Importantly, the Polish language lacks expressions which make it possible to describe the nature of this movement, the idea behind its existence and identity. In order to be able to describe what the maker movement actually is, Poles tend to use English terms, as there are not yet such fully understood equivalents in the Polish language. For a Polish person who is not aware of the maker movement, such terms are hard to be understood, and this may create a barrier when it comes to looking for external partners and allies. In the course of everyday 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 fully transfer the meanings of the global English terminology.

The most active makerspaces try to operate as social and learning spaces (provide activists with the opportunity to share experiences and to support each other), and this social aspect is often perceived as the crucial value. Fablab Łódź and the Fablab at the Copernicus Science Center make attempts to fulfill this mission. The center in Łodź organizes several events that regularly convene makers across the country, students, young people, academics and amaterus. Events can be of various types. For example, The Makers Night gathers hundreds of people around a number of experimental projects and prototypes, while Hackhatons organized by the FabLab of the Copernicus Science Center provide opportunities to engage with creative and collaborative patterns of co-production and experimentation of new ideas and projects.

Looking at polish makerspaces, we can depict three main types of organizational aims:

  1. Educational: fostering the popularization of typical knowledge and skills of the maker culture (most frequently technical knowledge);
  2. Inventiveness: focusing on the creation of innovative prototypes of devices and products;
  3. Revitalizing and cultural: concentrating on the reconstruction and digital archiving of traditional productive techniques, sometimes defined as ethnographical intervention activities.

It seems that the most diffused approach to relations between the maker movement, the manufacturing sector and the academic environment is a non-formal cooperation 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 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 .

Entrepreneurs who have relationships with the maker movement emphasize the fact that makerspaces create 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 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 in the long term, and it is also a problem to work out an effective business model for the maker movement centers.


By Jorge García | Tecnalia

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 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.