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Concepts, Models, and Experiments

Makerspaces

David M. Rieder and Jessica Elam-Handloff (North Carolina State University)

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 The official reviewing period for this keyword has ended, and commenting is closed. You may also wish to read the description of the anthology, guidelines on how to comment, and the list of keywords.

CURATORIAL STATEMENT

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Makerspaces are community-oriented places in which an ethos of do-it-yourself (DIY) experimentation with new technologies and materials coalesces with the goals of sharing knowledge and collaborating on project design and development. They are spaces in which high and low tech are combined, where computing and crafting can share space on the same workbench. They are spaces in which a 3D printer might share counter space with a sewing machine, a touchscreen and stylus with sketch paper and charcoal pencil. In a makerspace, it is not surprising to find wire cutters and fabric scissors hanging from the same row of hooks, or soldering filament and Mod Podge in the same drawer. Makerspaces promote techno-eclecticism, which is why you will find a wide range of micro-sensors, bags of LEDs, and various kinds of DC motors along the same workspace as a spool of yarn, a bag of nails, and cuts of wood and acrylic. As a sign of the eclecticism of many makerspaces, it is not uncommon to find a white board covered in anything from technical diagrams, storyboarded drawings, and lines of code, to poetic verse, mathematical equations, and wireframe mockups.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Makerspaces are an increasingly important location for digital pedagogy in the humanities for several reasons. First, makerspaces promote an inquiry-based approach to learning that values experimentation, tinkering, and play as important means of discovery. Massimo Banzi, who is co-founder of the Arduino project, underscores the importance of this approach to learning. He argues that “it is essential to play with technology, exploring different possibilities directly on hardware and software—sometimes without a very defined goal” (Banzi and Shiloh 6). Within these spaces, the bricoleur has a home in which to explore what Claude Levi-Strauss once characterized as a ‘science of the concrete’ (Levi-Strauss).

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Second, these spaces promote cross-disciplinary collaboration, which helps students and faculty move beyond the historic division between the sciences and the humanities. In the late-1950s, C.P Snow gave a lecture titled “The Two Cultures” during which he spoke about the “gulf of mutual incomprehension” that separated humanists from scientists (Snow 4). He lamented the gulf, characterizing it as a “sheer loss to us as people, and to our society” (Snow 12). Snow may have been excited to witness the rise of makerspaces because of the ways in which the gulf is made more comprehensible, the rift separating the disciplines ameliorated. Related to the goals of sharing knowledge, makerspaces promote the ideals of the open software and hardware movements; the right to copy is always toward the left, i.e., toward the public domain.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Third, makerspaces empower students and faculty in the humanities to expand their notion of what it means to think and engage critically with the world. Matt Ratto introduces the context for this point of empowerment as follows: “most people consider thinking a linguistic practice—an internal monologue in which we use conceptual categories to make sense of the world around us. Similarly, we tend to think of criticality as a particular form of thinking, one in which we pause to reflect, and step briefly away from action in the world in order to reason and consider these actions” (Hertz). The problem with this persistent bias in the humanities is that it holds back students and faculty from engaging creatively and critically with the wide range of non-linguistic materials comprising the built environments in which we increasingly live as well as with new forms of creativity and critical expression. Makerspaces promote an engagement with new forms of critical thinking through the process of making.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Makerspaces can be found across the Americas, Europe, and in a growing number of locations in Asia and Africa. They are established in residential garages, community centers, schools, libraries, and museums. While there may be presently over 100 makerspaces in name across the world, when they are combined with hackerspaces or hack labs, fab(rication) labs, TechShops, and Men’s Sheds, which all share a related mission, their numbers grow into the thousands (Halverson and Sheridan). The philosophical and counter-cultural origins of makerspaces can be traced back to the late-1960s when publisher and author Stewart Brand helped popularize the ideal of hacker culture. In the late-1960s, hackers were promoted by Brand as a burgeoning techno-elitist class of creatives and ‘outlaw’ experimentalists. It is for this reason that makerspaces are considered an off-shoot of the hackerspaces and hack labs that preceded them in name. More recently, makerspaces are associated with maker culture and the Maker Movement, which, since 2005, has been promoted by the bimonthly periodical Make Magazine and the Maker Faires associated with them. Make Magazine has promoted a culture of DIY and do-it-with-others (DIWO) project development by featuring hundreds of projects in its print magazine and website, publishing step-by-step technical guides, a “skill builder” section for learning everything from how to operate a laser cutter, sew leather with an awl, or 3D print objects, to name a few.

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 While makerspaces and maker culture are lauded for their democratizing potential, they have also been criticized for recreating some of the historic biases found in male-dominated workspaces. In an essay titled “Why I am Not a Maker,” Debbie Chachra recontextualizes the excitement to make and build within a social history in which women are marginalized: “The cultural primacy of making, especially in tech culture . . . is informed by the gendered history of who made things, and in particular, who made things that were shared with the world, not merely for hearth and home” (Chachra). Related to Chachra’s argument, Beth Buchholz et al argue that the maker “movement’s potential to transform education rests in our ability to address notable gender disparities” (278). Makerspaces are a compelling location in a digital humanities curriculum for promoting new, cross-disciplinary forms of innovation and creativity, but it is important to realize that specific materials, tools, and technical processes are linked to social histories that have marginalized women and other groups. It is incumbent on digital pedagogues to consider these concerns as they work to promote the positive values of these spaces. An additional source of criticism has been that some aspects of maker culture, namely MAKE magazine and the MakerBot 3D printer, is that they have infused the DIY culture of the movement with a corporate, for-profit ethos. It is incumbent on digital pedagogues to consider these concerns as they work to promote the positive values of these spaces.

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 Stephen Ramsay once wrote, “to me, there’s always been a profound—and profoundly exciting and enabling—commonality to everyone who finds their way to [the digital humanities]. And that commonality, I think, involves moving from reading and critiquing to building and making” (“On Building”). Makerspaces are a locations in which the profound excitement about which Ramsay wrote can be found. For students and faculty in the humanities, makerspaces empower us to explore the potential of new materials, so that we can connect and communicate with broader audiences both in and outside of the university.

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 The selection of artifacts that follow are meant to represent broadly the kinds of coursework, projects, and work spaces comprising the pedagogical shift to making and maker culture in the digital humanities.

CURATED ARTIFACTS

Syllabi

Introduction to Digital Humanities

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12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 The Introduction to Digital Humanities course taught by Jentery Sayers, Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of Victoria, combines critical analysis, material engagement, and collaborative research to expose students to the Digital Humanities. This foundational course includes integral sections on cultural and political issues within DH and overviews of tools and technologies, building a critical framework and knowledge base for further digital scholarship. One of the key contributions offered by Sayers is a collaborative, interdisciplinary framework for both prototyping and critically exploring issues related to society and technology. It is a framework that can draw together technologists with historians, sociologists, and critical theorists.

Makers and Makerspaces

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15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 Monica Miller’s undergraduate course demonstrates how students to approach making as encompassing new modes of composition to enhance communication skills and knowledge beyond the traditional text. The course consists of an overview of the Maker Community and its practices, ideologies, and rhetorical strategies while embedding practical application in the form of maker project development. Miller’s course is one that extends easily to the fields of rhetoric and composition. This is because her approach to making is explicitly associated with rhetorical principles and multimodal forms of writing.

Critical Making

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18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 The Critical Making course developed by Matt Ratto, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto, merges theory and practice in a seminar-and-lab setting. The course is open to and encourages novice participation, employing a scaffolded approach to learning new physical computing technologies in parallel with literature covering critical and emerging issues in information systems. Ratto’s syllabus and approach to critical making has helped foster a broader understanding of making as an open-ended, inquiry based model of learning. His approach, which focuses on the process of making over and above considerations associated with a finished product or audience, empowers new makers to explore in an open, collaborative context.

Instructables

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21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 Instructables is one of several wiki-style resources for the maker community. Two related sites include WikiHow and Bildr. Instructables was developed by MIT Media Lab graduates Eric WIlhelm and Saul Griffith. It was launched in 2005. It boasts instruction sets for creating hundreds of DIY projects. Many of the articles published on their website were developed by community members. Each published set of instructions includes a list of all materials that will be needed, detailed explanations for each step in the process, and still images of the project at each stage development. The site boasts a range of project that include everything from crafting and work working to soldering and circuit designing.

Projects

Quilt Snaps

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24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 Leah Buechley, former MIT professor whose work in the High-Low Tech Research Group focuses on high and low technologies from a critical perspective, created Quilt Snaps as a “personal and social” project that combines low-tech crafting processes with high-tech microprocessor configurations. Quilt Snaps uses textiles, conductive thread, and a variety of sensory inputs and outputs to generate varying mathematical outputs depending on the configuration of quilt squares snapped together. This example of e-textiles, a facet of the maker movement growing in popularity, involves both the process and community based aspects of maker culture. It presents an approachable, accessible project for critical material engagement and data generation. Her syllabus extends simultaneously to several disciplines that are not usually found together: e-textiles, design, and UX. Moreover, the way in which Buechley combines high with low technologies has the potential to introduce making to an more economically-diverse group of students and schools.broadens the audience for making to groups that have not been early-adopters of high tech.

Feral Robotic Dogs

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27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 Coming out of New York University and Natalie Jeremijenko’s Xdesign Lab, Feral Robotic Dogs are a pack of cracked/hacked/modified robotic dog toys fitted with various environmental sensors, converting them from objects of commercial interest to tools for activism in a variety of ways. Teams working on different endeavors release these feral packs “into the wild” to sense environmental conditions human senses can’t otherwise detect. Given the criticisms of commercialization of the maker movement, the Feral Robotic Dogs project upends the market-driven nature of the products by turning them from objects with entertainment and monetary value to participants in research aimed at addressing real-world problems. Moreover, her approach to resonates with the post-humanities concepts and themes, which have been one of the cutting-edge approaches to humanities research and philosophy in the past two decades.

Interpretive Machines

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30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 Paul Fyfe, Associate Professor in the Department of English at North Carolina State University, taught an Honors English seminar titled “Interpretive Machines” in Fall 2015. The course focused on rethinking modes of cultural communication from historical, theoretical, and hands-on perspectives. The seminar’s final project involved the ground-up building of an object that incorporated course themes and explorations. These projects included, among others, an arduino-powered tone-typing QWERTY keyboard exploring textual and aural modalities of composition, an arduino-powered surveillance book that registered motion and location, and a Makey Makey powered conductive tape and Play Doh keyboard embedded in an old thesaurus challenging participants to consider algorithmic text input. Along with design documents and reflection journals, these projects encompass traditional texts and material engagement with new media through classroom learning and hands-on experience in sessions facilitated by the university’s makerspace. Such an approach to teaching and learning enmeshes theory and practice to extend student learning beyond the traditional text.

Hyperrhiz 13 & Rutgers-Camden Exhibit

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33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 Issue 13 of the journal Hyperrhiz, themed “Kits, Plans, and Schematics,” curated nine projects that combined DIY maker culture with humanities scholarship. These projects were later displayed in an exhibit at Rutgers University-Camden Digital Scholarship Center, inviting visitors to engage with the projects, while Hyperrhiz hosts the open access documentation and guides. The combined publication and exhibit represent one answer to questions surrounding the navigation of traditional scholarly publications and project-based digital scholarship. These projects may serve as a range of examples for project-based course assignments in introductory digital humanities courses. Additionally, the open-source documentation offers students the opportunity to explore, build, modify, or reimagine these projects as an introduction to what’s possible through maker tools and technologies, and perhaps inspiration for their own explorations of particular theoretical insights and course themes.

Spaces

D.H. Hill Library Makerspace

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36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 The D.H. Hill Library Makerspace at North Carolina State University is a free to access DIY space equipped with maker tools like 3D printers, 3D scanners, sewing machines, soldering irons, electronics prototyping kits, a laser cutter and more. The space is part of a larger project within the NCSU libraries to cultivate a maker community and ensure the tools, technology, and support involved with making are accessible to all of campus. Libraries staff involved with the Hill Makerspace also facilitate classes, teach workshops, and provide consultations with students and faculty on their projects. These collaborations offer faculty and students the opportunity for hands-on experience with tools and tech that might otherwise seem intimidating without instruction. Bringing the classroom to the makerspace opens the range of possibilities for project-based coursework and demonstrates the cross-disciplinary nature of makerspace-facilitated learning.

The Maker Lab in the Humanities (MLab)

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39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 The Maker Lab in the Humanities (MLab) at the University of Victoria facilitates critical scholarship for teams of humanities faculty and students through physical computing, digital fabrication, and other digital humanities endeavors. MLab teams emphasize a critical approach to making and research, focusing on the processes of engaging with material components. Work emerging from the MLab has found its way to international conferences, publications, galleries, and exhibits. The experimental ethos inherent in the MLab takes coursework to interesting places, offering insights into the range of material engagements pedagogial strategies might draw upon to ask and/or reveal new and different types of questions in the course of Digital Humanities scholarship.

Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) – NYU

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42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 The Interactive Telecommunications Program in NYU’s Tisch School for the Arts is a two year program whose mission is to “explore the imaginative use of communication technologies—how they might augment, improve, and bring delight and art into people’s lives” (ITP). ITP’s fourth floor is a premiere maker space and for facilitating its exploratory mission. The space supports work in wide range of disciplines including e-textiles, and -wearables, interactive event spaces, and furniture design. One of the professors in the program is Tom Igoe, who was involved in the development of Arduino, and whose co-written book with Dan O’Sullivan, Introduction to Physical Computing, is an essential resource.

RELATED MATERIALS

43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 Adafruit Industries Educator Resources. https://www.adafruit.com/educators/

44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 0 “Arduino, the Documentary.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGkpWWY3JHk

45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0 Arduino Software (IDE) download. https://www.arduino.cc/en/Main/Software

46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 0 Make: Magazine articles, project ideas, and guides. http://makezine.com/

47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 Processing Software download. https://processing.org/

WORKS CITED

48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 Anderson, Chris. Makers: The New Industrial Revolution. New York: Crown Business, 2014. Print.

49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 0 Banzi, Massimo and Michael Shiloh. Make: Getting Started with Arduino. 3rd Ed. Sebastopol, CA: Maker Media, Inc, 2015. Print.

50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0 Chachra, Debbie. “Why I Am Not a Maker.” The Atlantic. 23 Jan 2015. Web.

51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 0 Halverson, Erica Rosenfeld and Kimberly M. Sheridan. “The Maker Movement in Education.” Harvard Educational Review. 84:4 (Winter) 2014. Print.

52 Leave a comment on paragraph 52 0 Levi-Strauss, Claude. The Savage Mind. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1966. Print.

53 Leave a comment on paragraph 53 0 Ramsay, Stephen. “On Building.” Stephen Ramsay Blog. 11 January 2011. 1 March 2016. Web.

54 Leave a comment on paragraph 54 0 Hertz, Garnet and Matt Ratto. “Conversations in Critical Making.” Blueshift Series. Ctheory: 21C008C (May 2015). Web.

55 Leave a comment on paragraph 55 0 Rosenfeld Halverson, Erica and Kimberly M. Sheridan. “The Maker Movement in Education.” Harvard Educational Review (Winter 2014): 495 – 504. Print.

56 Leave a comment on paragraph 56 0 Snow, C.P. “The Two Cultures and The Scientific Revolution.” The Rede Lecture. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1961. Web.

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