Is it time for the ‘mixer movement’?

June 18, 2013

Here’s what we’re reading/watching today:

Old Computer in Wastepaper Basket (istockphoto)
 (istockphoto)

1) Quick, what ‘s the first thing you think of when you read the phrase “maker movement”? Perhaps it’s the image of a technology enthusiast — more than likely male — in his garage with a 3D printer, spools of PLA, a few Raspberry Pis scattered around and soldering iron in hand. It’s a stereotype, of course. Makers, as they’ve come to be called, have a variety of interests and include men and women — young and old. Also, they’re not just making: They’re fixing, repurposing, re-engineering and otherwise breathing new life into old things — sometimes, very old things. So, is it time to rebrand the “maker movement”?

I can already see the “it’s too early” comments, assuming any comments appear below this post at all. Rest assured, I’m already there with you. Ken Denmead over on Make wrote (in a very nice piece) earlier this month that, “once there’s been coverage of the next big thing, the media inevitably moves on to covering how the next big thing is already doomed to die.”

Let me be clear, the “maker movement,” at least from where I sit, is not within sight of its deathbed. In fact, I don’t think we can afford for the maker movement to have a deathbed. It could, on the other hand, be up for a makeover.

The movement, as Denmead writes, has a number of different groups under its umbrella. These include, but are not limited to, Raspberry Pi and Arduino enthusiasts and 3D printer aficionados. But there are also amateurs and experts in wood and metalwork, and even painting. And the maker movement isn’t a recent phenomenon. “The maker movement,” one commenter observed on Make, “is older than the Maker Movement.”

That is to say people have always been independently building new things out of spare parts, or designing and making entirely new products out of whole cloth. But the movement has recently undergone a change thanks in large part to the Web. Communities can form more easily now than they could in the past, and knowledge is more accessible. Makers can also sell products more easily than they could before, reaching a global marketplace of potential buyers. Does that mean everyone in their garage can be a full-blown engineer? No. But it could mean that everyone in their garage can know where to find someone who is and learn what they want or need to know from them.

In a piece for the Huffington Post, Brit + Co. Founder and CEO Brit Morin explores the movement’s changes and transformations, going back to the declining number of home economics and shop classes (for better or for worse) and then on to today where people hungry for knowledge on how to cook, clean, change a tire or generally learn how to be a functioning adult are voraciously consuming how-to content online (again, for better or worse). The appetite for this knowledge is even making its way to Vine, with users turning the six-second video medium into mini cooking shows.

So what does all of this mean for the definition of the “maker movement”? Morin writes:

“In essence, the very word ‘making’ or the act of being a ‘maker’ or ‘DIYer’ is rapidly changing and is affecting more people than ever before. In this regard, I would argue it’s changing for the better.”

Is making enough? What about fixing? In an opinion piece for Wired, Clive Thompson  says there needs to be a fixer movement in addition to a maker movement. “Ultimately,” writes Thompson, “the real challenge here isn’t technological. It’s cultural. Can fixing be made sexy? Can we make it delightful to preserve things?” Thompson thinks we can. It will take more than a community of people who want to tinker, he says; it will take manufacturers agreeing to make products that, once bought, can be fixed, and they will need to post detailed instruction manuals for anyone and everyone to find and follow along with.

This could usher in a world where part of owning a smartphone, tablet, desktop computer, gaming system or even washing machine comes with the opportunity and responsibility to do your own hardware upgrade or print your own replacement parts. Perhaps, instead of “You break it, you buy it,” the saying could go “You break it? No sweat. You can fix it.”

So, instead of just a maker or fixer movement, let’s start a “mixer movement” — where to be a maker is to be a fixer, and vice-versa. Who knows, perhaps these mixers will inherit manufacturing’s much-talked-about future.

2) Can eye-tracking software spot autism? A new report from Scientific American shows that researchers are beginning to see possibilities in the technology that is widely used by advertisers and game developers:

“The question is, can capturing such movements help clinicians make diagnoses of mental and neurological disorders, such as autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Parkinson’s disease and more? For many researchers in this growing field, the outlook so far looks positive.”

(Scientific American)

3) If you are an introvert on social media, you may want to reconsider how you spend your time. That’s according to the Daily Dot’s Kris Holt. Holt explores his own social media practices and how they have changed him, concluding in part:

“I’m not really sure I’m all that funny anymore. I’m not sure I ever was in the first place, and I’m less confident I am now.”

(The Daily Dot)

4) Here’s something to consider about the big data debate: If data is generated and there’s no one there to analyze it, does it matter a hill of beans? Tom Davenport explores this for the Harvard Business Review, writing that, without broadcast, data is pretty much useless:

“… if you’re going to spend the better part of a decade on a research project, also put some time and effort into disseminating your results.”

(Harvard Business Review)

5) Last but not least, two pieces — one by Daniel Burrus for the Big Think and the other by Alan Henry for Lifehacker — caught my eye this morning. Both explore time management from different angles. Burrus explores the act of being “busy,” what constitutes the right and wrong ways to be busy and how can one “busy [themselves] out of business.” Meanwhile, Henry offers a quick reminder to the overworked and burned out to stop and take vacation time — no matter how busy they are. “The truth is,” writes Henry, “most of our jobs are busy and hectic enough that there’s never a good time, so think instead about the accommodations you can make so you can slip away to recharge.” With that, happy Tuesday.

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Dominic Basulto · June 18, 2013