Monday, January 16, 2017

2. Blog post: class and reading reflections

Reflection on the first class

Making a board game

As far as introductions to a class go, making a board game is one of the more enjoyable. I'm an avid board game player, so it was fun to try my hand at making one. It was certainly a fun way to get to know my classmates. I think we were each able to bring a bit of ourselves to the activity. For instance, I like writing silly haikus and we ended up making a haiku a win condition in our game. I liked that the stakes for the activity were pretty low, which helped me feel the freedom to be creative (rather than constraining myself to an assignment).

With that said, I think we could have learned more about each other in the specific context of making and makerspaces. While we did share a bit about ourselves in our down time, I don't feel that I had a particular introduction to why my classmates are drawn to the class. I don't yet know how essential that's going to be, but in any situation involving group work I really like to know why each of us is invested in the material.


I really enjoyed the reading recaps. I like seeing what each person decided to read (as a way to see inside their motivations for the class) and hearing about their takeaways. Library and information science (LIS) is clearly going to be a big topic, and since it's not one of my areas of focus I'm really curious to keep learning from my classmates going forward. Overall, we seem to be a class of critical readers (critiques of the Maker Manifesto in particular) and I look forward to learning together.

This week's readings

This week's readings (and video) are generally centered around the maker identity, and who that includes. Notably, none of them really address who is not included in their definitions. Dale Dougherty features twice, including his TED Talk in Detroit, and we also read a piece from Barnes & Noble about what making is and who is a maker.

I found the Barnes & Noble post to be very interesting, though not necessarily for its content. While Dougherty went into significantly greater depth, one of the aspects of making that interests me most is its place in and outside of capitalism/commercialism. That the last remaining major bookseller in the US would feature makers (and even sell 3D printers, as seen on my last visit in December 2016) speaks to how mainstream making has become (or always was?). I docn't think I learned anything I didn't know from the piece's content, but I was interested to see how Barnes & Noble positioned making within their commercial context.

The Dougherty readings were much more interesting in their content. The video and Free to Make had a lot of overlap, which I found interesting given the time between the two publications. Popular authors like Dougherty who are building a movement benefit from a relatively stable definition (note to self: research this in the future) so it makes sense that he'd be consistent, but it does provoke my curiosity about who his definition leaves out.

Throughout his writing/speaking, Dougherty positions making as play. Of hackerspaces, he says they are a place where makers are "playing with technology". Its an association he makes explicit at multiple points. I think this is a wise observation, since for many (white, male, American, middle-class) children making begins with playing. On the other hand, as discussed last week in class making is often an act of necessity or simply the best and cheapest way to get something you want.

At the same time as I was critiquing Dougherty, I really felt that I could relate to Dougherty's makers. I'm writing this blog post on a Chromebook Pixel that I "hacked" (quotes because all I really did was run a script) with the help of an online community of enthusiasts. It now runs GalliumOS, a GNU/Linux OS based on Xubuntu, which is itself based on Debian. The trackpad sensitivity annoys me, in part because Linux trackpad drivers and firmware have historically suffered, so if I wanted to I could rewrite the driver with better palm detection and publish it back out to the community (after I learn how to do that, with even more help from the community).

Obligatory proof with bonus cat

Speaking of my laptop's OS, one thing that stuck out to me was the absence of GNU/Linux (cue pedantic Richard Stallman email/soundbite). Dougherty mentions MIT, Woz and Jobs, and the computer hackers without bringing up Stallman, Torvalds, or the place of DIY operating systems in building today's maker culture. By most metrics, Linux is the most common OS in the world, thanks in no small part to its use in Internet of Things (IoT) devices and the Android operating system, yet it hasn't even been named.

On the other hand, I was happy that punks and zines got a mention. I think punk activities (particularly zine-making) present a great entry point into making as a practice, and I'm really interested in the lens of making as resistance.

Wrapping Up

Dale Dougherty has done impressive work with making and maker culture in the United States. As much as I've critiqued some of his limitations, I found his TED talk and book introduction inspiring. I found myself going off on tangents throughout my reading and writing, thinking about projects I'd like to try and searching for resources on different topics. I also found ample opportunities for critical engagement, and I'm looking forward to diving deeper into makers, makerspaces, and all the stuff outside anyone's definition.

No comments:

Post a Comment