Making and Sharing

My day job is as an Instructional Designer in the Learning Technologies division of a community college. We’re in the Rust Belt, in a suburban county with a LOT of small-to-medium manufacturing firms.  Among other things, this means I get paid to keep up with Cool New Stuff as it might relate to our mission of preparing our students to enter the 21st century workforce.

3D printing and the whole “Maker Community” concept is clearly Becoming A Thing, so lately I’ve been reading up on it. (I got a low-end 3D printer a couple of years ago as part of a grant, with the proviso that we “play with it see how it might be useful in the classroom.”  That apparently has made me the campus expert in 3D printing.) I’ve also visited some local public-access makerspaces.

The thing that gets me is that people are all jazzed about the Big Idea of Making and Sharing as though it was something new and revolutionary.  A couple of recently-published books go on at length about the incredible value of creating things, finding out what you need to know to get the job done, sharing with others what you learn, and how that creates community and growth and and and…

I quite literally shook my head as I read this, because for DECADES I’ve been surrounded by people who do EXACTLY this – and don’t think twice about it. “Learn-Make-Share” describes the SCA’s Arts and Sciences (A&S) community to a T.  It is What We Do, and How We Do It, and it’s been that way for as long as I’ve been around the group.

My old friend Lewys Blackmore recently posted this (reproduced with permission):

“I was asked recently what skills I had in making things to which I responded with this abbreviated list:  [LONG list of skills that reads like the table of contents of Theophilus, plus some.]

The important question is why?

I was taught first, to be curious, and second to do whatever I did to the best of my ability, no matter what. But the underlying factor was a compulsion to make, to do, to act. …

But more important than all of this is my earnest desire to help others acquire the skills and knowledge to make, to do, and to act. …  If I don’t know, I most certainly know someone who does.

Because … simply as a human being, it is the natural culmination of our existence to create.”

That’s the “maker culture” in a nutshell.  I don’t know whether to be amazed, amused, or deeply saddened that this combination of ethos and praxis is thought to be something new and revolutionary.  OK, so Modern Makers are creating things that have never existed before, using tools that didn’t exist ten years ago, while SCA artisans are re-creating ancient artifacts using ancient tools and methods.  But the only differences are the tools and desired output.  The mindset – I want to make this thing, so I need to learn how to use these tools, and I can learn from someone who has recently learned about them and is willing to teach – that mindset is EXACTLY the same!

I suppose that it’s just another proof of the truth of, “Plus ςa change, plus c’est la meme chose” – “The more that things change, the more they stay the same.”