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The Maker Movement in a Rural Context.

Blurred image of a hand with word Make

The Maker Movement is a world wide movement, of Hacktavists, Craftivists and Activists, who come together in an informal setting, a Maker Space, either virtually and in reality, to create. Unused, discarded or broken electronic, plastic, silicon, thread or any raw material and/or product, is reused, assembled and re-made. Associated with urban movements, future research will show that the possibility of setting up a community of practice in the form of a Makers Space in a rural setting, can provide rural communities with new and exciting technological opportunities.

The Maker Movement consists of a growing culture of hands-on making, creating, designing, and innovating (Peppler, Bender. 2013). A world wide phenomenon, it has been embraced by a sub-culture of people who are tech-savvy, pro-active, and interested in ongoing and peer-to-peer learning. Started as a grassroots movement, it has developed, like the internet, Web 2.0, and brought with it, its communities that are networking and creating revolutionary ideas. Not satisfied with simply being a consumer, those involved in the maker movement began to ‘tinker’ from DIY (Do-It-Yourself) to DIWO (Do-It-With-Others). These new DIY Citizens assume active roles as inventors, makers, hackers, modders and tinkerers, in pursuit of new forms of engaged and participatory democracy (Ratto, Boler. 2014). According to David Gauntlett, in his book Making is Connecting, he sees 3 principle ways in the social meaning of creativity. 1. Making is connecting because you have to connect things together to make something. 2. Making is connecting because acts of creativity usually involve a social dimension and connect us with other people. Finally, No 3. Making is connecting  because through making things and sharing with the world, we increase our engagement and connection with our social and physical environments. (Gauntlett. 2011).

Not confined geographically, local and global participants can create a virtual community, that has a place in the real world. These places are called Maker Spaces. A physical space, a community of activity, where hacktivist, craftivists and activist, can come together to ‘tinker’ with engineering, electronics, craft, an much more. An idea hub, for people of all ages, academic background, to come together to play. Trends as different as feminist thought and the ethnography of science join with trends in the computer culture to favour forms of knowledge based on working with concrete materials rather than abstract propositions, and this too predisposes them to prefer learning in a constructionist rather than in an instructionist mode. (Papert, Harel. 1991)

For all the success of this new form of DIY Citizenship, and new forms of digital cultural practice, it has an urban feel about it. Maker spaces can be found in most capitals, or large cities, either as privately owned ventures or extensions of Universities or Libraries. Maker spaces, and even the idea of DIY digital citizenship are not thought of or encouraged in rural areas. Currently rural areas are defined by their historical productivity. Through governmental and European policy, rural areas are confined to their role as producer. Rowles disagrees, it seems naive to assume that simply by crossing an administrative or census boundary, an individual is conveniently transformed from an ‘urban’ to a ‘rural’ person (Rowles 1988). While Halfceree contents that rural areas are entering a transition, from Productivism to Post- productivism. (Halfacree, K.H. 1999).

Confined to limited opportunity and bad internet services, the digital divide between rural and urban is very visible. This does not have to be the case though. There is the possibilities of using innovative technological solutions to alleviate rural poverty, marginalization and emigration. Post-productionism sees the possibility of emerging technological solutions with rural communities, through the positive output of the Maker Culture. Development of a Maker Space in a rural area, could help reduce the digital divide, and create a community of practice among those with digital knowledge and those without.   ICT programs based in an informal educational space, with peer-to-peer learning ,could develop new opportunities, digitally and educationally, for the community. Resilience (of rural communities) can thus both be an outcome, especially when linked to improved adaptive capacity of rural communities, or a process linked to dynamic changes over time associated with community learning and the willingness of communities to take responsibility and control of their rural development pathways (Wilson. 2010). In addition, a Maker Space could collectively own tools and technologies. While focusing on the principles of open-source, access to digital tools such as laser cutters, 3D printers, could help start-up business and new creative designers. Orientating design toward the underlying human and community needs, not the Legacy Media Conventions (Murray, Janet, H. 2012). Who better to come up with new farming software applications, than someone familiar with farming. New tourism apps and initiatives are best created within the community of tourist facilitators, where therre is a wealth of knowledge. Coderdojos are paving the way for a new generation of young coders, but lack of facilities and equipment in rural areas, are a hindrance.

2015 saw the first rural digital hub being set up in Skibbereen, Co. Cork. Ludgate@Skibbereen have created a digital strategy for the area which aims to bridge the rural-urban divide by giving back to rural communities which have been adversely affected by unemployment and emigration. They hosted Ireland’s first National Digital Week in 2015 to phenomenal success. With more and more web based industries setting up their headquarters in Ireland, it is more important than ever to create an indigenous digital industry, with technologically savvy, digitally fluent communities. Communities that enjoy making and innovating.  Individual and social learning and play through making is what defines the Maker Movement. The opportunities and educational possibilities offered by the Maker Movement are positive. Though research literature on this form of DIY Citizenship is limited. As it is a relatively new grassroots sub-culture, it is slowly rising through to academic levels, and research on the benefits of this type of community learning is slowly being recognized. However, its opportunities as a rural based initiative has been overlooked. Still confined to the label of agricultural production, rural areas do not have the educational or technological tools or access to be able to actively explore and express their concepts of the Maker Culture. There are very interesting research avenues, such as the new employment possibilities, constructionist style learning, and divergent digital industries, that could be fostered through new communities of interest and practice in rural areas.

References:

Gauntlett, David (2011) Making is Connecting: The social meaning of Creativity, from DIY and knitting to YouTube and Web 2.0. Cambridge,  UK. Policy Press.

Halfacree, K.H. (1999) A new space or spatial effacement? Alternative futures for the post-productivist countryside .  Reshaping the countryside: Perceptions and process of Rural change.

Wallingford: CAB International pp 67-76

Ludgate@Skibbereen.  www.ludgate.ie

Murray, Janet H. (2012) Inventing The Medium. Principles of Interaction Design as a Cultural Practice. Cambridge, USA. MIT Press

Papert, Seymore, and Idit Harel. (1991) “1.” Situating Constructionism.  Constructionism. New York. Ablex Corporation.

Peppler, Kylie. Bender, Sophia (2013) Maker movement spreads innovation one project at a time. New York, USA. Phi Delta Kappan, Sage Publications.

Ratto, Matt. Boler, Megan. Editors. (2014) DIY Citizenship: Critical Making and Social Media. Cambridge, USA. MIT Press.

Rowles (1988) What’s rural about rural aging? An Appalachian perspective. J Journal of Rural Studies 4, 115-124. Elsevier.

Wilson. (2010) Multifunctional ‘quality’ and rural community resilience. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers Vol 35, Issue 3, pg 364–381, Oxford, UK. Blackwell Publishing

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