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I hate the word "maker"


Janie Grace
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As in: "Inspire the maker in your child." I'm hearing it everywhere, usually in reference to kids. I don't know why it bugs me so much. I think it sounds like someone thinks they just now figured out that kids like to make stuff, or adults need to encourage kids to make stuff. It's like saying "inspire the hummer in your child" or "inspire the tree-climber in your child." Kids just DO that stuff. Plus... when did MAKER become a word?

Or maybe it's because my best friend when I was little used the word "make" to mean "have a bowel movement." That could very well be the underlying root of my intense angst about this word.

 

I know some people will roll their eyes and think I need to take a chill pill, but some of you will get it, which is why I am posting this trivial thread.

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I've not heard that, but I thought this had to do with small appliances, so I was trying to come up with other ways to say "waffle maker" or "coffee maker". LOL

 

Haha, no I have nothing against small appliances being called makers. Just people. I think we have a "Maker Fair" around here... it's so weird sounding.

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As in: "Inspire the maker in your child." I'm hearing it everywhere, usually in reference to kids. I don't know why it bugs me so much. I think it sounds like someone thinks they just now figured out that kids like to make stuff, or adults need to encourage kids to make stuff. It's like saying "inspire the hummer in your child" or "inspire the tree-climber in your child." Kids just DO that stuff. Plus... when did MAKER become a word?

 

Or maybe it's because my best friend when I was little used the word "make" to mean "have a bowel movement." That could very well be the underlying root of my intense angst about this word.

 

I know some people will roll their eyes and think I need to take a chill pill, but some of you will get it, which is why I am posting this trivial thread.

 

 

I can totally relate. Word trends bug me. Like we all need to use them cause they're "in" or something. I heard the word "empower" a lot in college and it drove me bonkers.

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I can assure you that adults are pretty in on the maker movement as well. You're only hearing it in regards to kids primarily because you have kids and you aren't personally trying to build crazy stuff yourself. ;)

 

It's a buzzword, but a lot of the product development and community aspects of the maker movement are really awesome from where I sit so it's hard for me to get fussed about it. Ds is part of a makerspace that is so awesome. The people there are great. We've met some really cool grown ups by letting him go to meetups for some of his techie interests and I think it's been really good for him. So... I can't be down on the maker movement, even when it does get a little precious in regards to kids.

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For adults: probably.  At the age 3-11 "maker" events I see, it is what I would call STEM-y, gender neutral crafts.

 

Yeah some of it is glorified crafts.  My older kid never wanted to do any of that.  He prefers to tinker at home on what he says is real stuff.  But hey nothing wrong with crafts. Crafts are fun too. 

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Um, no, not really. It's much more complicated than crafts. 

 

I don't know... I like that description more than anything else we're likely to get... if only because it is another rich, deep misappropriation.

 

For me maker is a modern euphemism for the older term hacker. Quoting an essay[1] based on Kierkegaard from '85:

 

 

 

The life of a true hacker is episodic, rather than planned. Hackers create ``hacks.'' A hack can be anything from a practical joke to a brilliant new computer program. (VisiCalc was a great hack. Its imitators are not hacks.) But whatever it is, a good hack must be aesthetically perfect. If it's a joke, it must be a complete one. If you decide to turn someone's dorm room upside-down, it's not enough to epoxy the furniture to the ceiling. You must also epoxy the pieces of paper to the desk.

 

To me that sounds a lot like a craftsman. Not some weak tea modern variant macrameing pot holders, but the older, purer version pursuing their craft with a passion. Not whatever crap the guild wanted them to produce but the pure whimsical examples of virtuosity they would produce for their peers. The tinkering, repurposing, mashing up other ideas...

 

Alton Brown could be a food hacker, tinkerer, maker, or craftsman.

 

A computer programmer doing novel, elegant work would qualify.

 

A knitter making a common sweater might not but either a knitter making a complex pattern or tinkering with the form by making a klein bottle would.

 

What makers do is not crafts... but that is because modern culture has degraded crafts.

 

I views Makers, Hackers, and Craftspersons as 3 largely, but not completely, overlapping circles on a venn diagram.

 

[1]  https://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~bh/hacker.html

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For adults: probably.  At the age 3-11 "maker" events I see, it is what I would call STEM-y, gender neutral crafts.

 

Let me clarify. Crafting is one of many forms of making. However, it is only one very small aspect of a process that has actually been around for as long as there have been problems to solve. Makers are creative problem solvers. 

 

Makers have done things like:

Cook with fire

make Wheels

develop surgical tools 

figure out how to make shelter with materials on hand

adapt solar & wind power for large scale and small scale use

velcro

fingernail polish that detects the presence of date rape drugs

farming 

improvise to solve real life problems with materials on hand

improvise to make some fun stuff with materials on hand (like marshmallow guns)

 

Some of these things could be reduced to crafts, but IMO, the kids would be better served if they were allowed to watch and hand tools to their parents, various workmen and mechanics so that they can figure out how things really work. That basic knowledge helps them become creative problems solvers. 

 

My dad was a maker - he made all kinds of practical items for our home and business. He solved problems with what he had on hand (making a "clothesline" out of pipe instead of wire, for example). He took things apart, cleaned and/or fixed them and put them back together again. He solved problems in his garage, not by purchasing new things to replace what no longer works. He used the parts of different, broken lawn mowers to make one working lawn mower. He built out our basement, learning what he needed to do as he went along. He taught himself plumbing because he regularly needed the skills for our business and it was cheaper than hiring someone to do it.  

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There is a show on now that is basically a Maker competition.  People compete for large sums of money to take their ideas for a product further.  The first round they get I think 100,000 to further develop it after pitching the idea and showing whatever they have to show (they must also do market research, etc.).  Then the ultimate winner will get a million dollars. 

 

The makers/inventors are mostly adults, but there have been some kids on there.  This was one 15 year old girl who was working on a wearable gadget that encouraged stroke sufferers to regularly do their exercises.  She did not get through to the next round, but they gave her an internship at Intel. 

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Well, yeah, you don't give 3 year olds soldering irons.

 

Glue guns can cause third degree burns. But he wasn't three and he really was old enough that he should have known better (he was a teen). 

 

As a teen, my  brother lifted the engine out of a car with a hoist and then dropped it on a finger. Stitches. Lots of stitches. 

 

Yeah, it all has risk, but so do other activities that my maker family members would never be interested in (like sports, for example). 

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To me that sounds a lot like a craftsman. Not some weak tea modern variant macrameing pot holders, but the older, purer version pursuing their craft with a passion. Not whatever crap the guild wanted them to produce but the pure whimsical examples of virtuosity they would produce for their peers. The tinkering, repurposing, mashing up other ideas...

 

 

 

This is very well said! Passion is a characteristic of makers, I think. Whether it is born out of necessity, curiosity or creativity, there is a passion that is present. 

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I applaud the creativity and problem solving ability of makers.  They have to start somewhere.  My maker started with a bin of recyclables when he was 3 (or even younger).  Our county library has hosted a lot of maker events.  They run the gamut from more artistic endeavors to electronic.  But makers run the gamut with their skills and their interests.  I think it is a good thing to have a new(ish) word to show the interest that people have taken in getting out there to "take chances, make mistakes, get messy" (to quote Ms. Frizzle).  I'm surprised that someone on a board that embraces education and active hands on learning would disparage such a trend or the word used to describe it. 

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I think it's also a cool way to get kids excited about the idea.  My younger kid does.  When he sees people on TV or wherever making stuff or inventing stuff he wants to do that too.  He'll get out the clip board and some paper and a pen and say..ok..I'm going to invent something.  **chirping**......**silence**...."Mom, what should I invent?"  LOL 

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That's good.  That's no way to start out, but I guess he now knows it's very hot!

 

I just figure you have a kid like I was :)  My dad said "don't touch that, it's hot and and will burn you." So when he turned his back I touched it to see how hot that was, exactly. And burned myself. Cause that's how I roll. 

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We have a large Maker Faire here, and it encompasses everything from art to electronics to I don't even know. Leather workers next to people that build robots next to quilters next to a college club that build inexpensive 3D printed prosthetic hands. 

 

The littlest kids get to sit in an area full of old electronics and appliances and go nuts taking them apart with provided screwdrivers. "Take Apart Village" I think is what that area is called. 

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Let me clarify. Crafting is one of many forms of making. However, it is only one very small aspect of a process that has actually been around for as long as there have been problems to solve. Makers are creative problem solvers. 

 

Makers have done things like:

Cook with fire

make Wheels

develop surgical tools 

figure out how to make shelter with materials on hand

adapt solar & wind power for large scale and small scale use

velcro

fingernail polish that detects the presence of date rape drugs

farming 

improvise to solve real life problems with materials on hand

improvise to make some fun stuff with materials on hand (like marshmallow guns)

 

Some of these things could be reduced to crafts, but IMO, the kids would be better served if they were allowed to watch and hand tools to their parents, various workmen and mechanics so that they can figure out how things really work. That basic knowledge helps them become creative problems solvers. 

 

My dad was a maker - he made all kinds of practical items for our home and business. He solved problems with what he had on hand (making a "clothesline" out of pipe instead of wire, for example). He took things apart, cleaned and/or fixed them and put them back together again. He solved problems in his garage, not by purchasing new things to replace what no longer works. He used the parts of different, broken lawn mowers to make one working lawn mower. He built out our basement, learning what he needed to do as he went along. He taught himself plumbing because he regularly needed the skills for our business and it was cheaper than hiring someone to do it.  

 

 

That's is one wicked broad definition. Everyone has done creative problem solving!  If everyone is a maker, what's the point of having a designation "maker"?  You could say we've all maked.  Or, maybe, we've all partaken in the act of making?

 

My other thought was:

Fingernail polish that detects the presence of date rape drugs? That's not science anymore?

 

 

 

 

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It's annoying in that it is a trendy word.

 

However, I am generally supportive of the reasons it has become trendy.  It's very much connected to things like the self-sufficiency movement, gardening, canning, increased popularity of sewing and knitting.  I think it revolves around a desire to have more of a connection with the objects of life, not to be so dependent on manufactured good, wanting to know how things actually work. 

 

The other aspect IMO is a bit of a renewed respect for people who work with their hands.  I really hope it turns into more than a fad, with people realizing that there are good careers and ways of life that don't involve working in an office or going to university, that talent with hands and the desire to tinker is something that is a talent to be cultivated just like raising a reader or someone who is good at mathematics.

 

I think craft is actually a better word, but not like Sunday School "crafts".  Craft as in craftsman. 

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That's is one wicked broad definition. Everyone has done creative problem solving!  If everyone is a maker, what's the point of having a designation "maker"?  You could say we've all maked.  Or, maybe, we've all partaken in the act of making?

 

My other thought was:

Fingernail polish that detects the presence of date rape drugs? That's not science anymore?

Perhaps "Applied Creative Problem Solving" is a better way to look at it. The problem solving results in something tangible. I do think we have all been makers in one way or another, but to identify as a maker in today's culture is different. It is a way of life and it is passionate, as someone pointed out in an earlier post. 

 

Sure, the fingernail polish requires scientific knowledge. That doesn't mean that the people who developed it weren't makers. It was actually developed by university students who majored in materials science engineering. Much of making requires knowledge of related fields. I think the lack of recognition of this fact has contributed to the decline in technical course offerings in the public schools in my area, honestly. Making is interdisciplinary. 

 

Some examples: 

Making a bookshelf = applied physics

Making a quilt = applied color theory, applied textiles

Making a lawn mower = applied physics

Making a mentos/diet coke rocket = applied chemistry, applied physics, applied fun

Making a car engine = applied physics, applied chemistry 

Making a solar oven = applied physics, applied earth systems science, applied biology, applied food science

Selling something you make = applied business, applied mathematics, applied physics, applied sociology, etc..

 

ETA: This is really cool - the College of Textiles at North Carolina State University offers a PhD in Fiber and Polymer Science: "The polymer, fiber, and textile sciences are concerned with polymeric materials and fibers produced from them; textile assemblies in one, tow and three-dimensional forms; and the chemistry of dyeing, finishing and other wet processes. This broad field of study permits a wide range of useful concentrations. The candidate is expected to concentrate in one area and to acquire a reasonable perspective in other relevant areas. Generally, a student specializes in the areas of (1) polymer chemistry and synthesis (2) fiber and polymer physics and physical chemistry (3) the production, processing and properties of fibrous materials, or (4) chemistry of dyes, finishes and their processes."  

Edited by TechWife
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It's interesting to see, and sad, how hand work has largely been driven out of public schools.  There is often no real vocational training at all, certainly no one is graduating with a qualification to go into a trade. 

 

And yet there is a lot of valuble work in those areas.  Much of which either can't be sent off shore (plumbing, say) or which is better done domestically (farming).  Skills can also be a reasonable way, if not to make money directly, to trade with others or do your own household work.  I think many people feel very helpless when they realize they have to hire someone to do even very basic work on their homes.

 

It's not easy to find out how to have your kids learn these things though, if you don't know yourself.

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 I'm surprised that someone on a board that embraces education and active hands on learning would disparage such a trend or the word used to describe it. 

 

Um, whoa. I am not disparaging a trend. I was merely saying that the WORD bothered me. I'm a word person, and I tend to bristle at words that seem trendy or vague. I have learned a lot on this thread and think hands-on innovation is admirable and valuable. I had no idea this was a "movement" of sorts but I am all for uniting people who share common interests and providing platforms for creativity to flourish. 

 

I still don't like the word. I don't like the word "creative" (as a noun) either, as in "I am a maker" or  "I am a creative." I think in some ways we all have those inclinations to some degree, and that the labeling is a bit precious and overly self-aware for my taste. But hey -- it's a free country. People can call themselves and their kids "makers" until the cows come home, and I can sit here and be slightly irritated by it. But please know it's a semantic preference and not a diss to the value of making things. 

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The thing that bothers me about the word is that it sounds to my ears like a really lazy use of the English language. We have so many wonderful, descriptive words. Why narrow down to the most general? Why not artisan, craftsman, inventor, or any other relevant term for what we are describing? Maker? It sounds like I have the vocabulary of a three year old when I use that term, so I don't.

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It's interesting to see, and sad, how hand work has largely been driven out of public schools.  There is often no real vocational training at all, certainly no one is graduating with a qualification to go into a trade. 

 

And yet there is a lot of valuble work in those areas.  Much of which either can't be sent off shore (plumbing, say) or which is better done domestically (farming).  Skills can also be a reasonable way, if not to make money directly, to trade with others or do your own household work.  I think many people feel very helpless when they realize they have to hire someone to do even very basic work on their homes.

 

It's not easy to find out how to have your kids learn these things though, if you don't know yourself.

 

I agree, oh boy do I agree.

 

My son has always been fascinated with blacksmithing and has taken a couple of glasses in that and welding.   As a homeschooler he could not participate in the programs at our local vo-tech high school.  (When he was the age to register, he was having a lot of health problems and we had other stuff going on, so I didn't have the wherewithal to fight it.  I've heard that there is a movement afoot to change that, too late for us but I hope it works out.)  Anyway, later on he took an adult ed. class at night - at the same school.  But not as comprehensive, not free to us via tax dollars, and with no job/career help as part of the class.

 

Our county community college and the 2 adjacent county CCs have ZERO shop-type classes.  The closest thing here in an upper-level art class in welding/metal sculpture. There is just nothing for people who are interested in the trades. There is a state university that has trades programs, so we are hoping he can transfer there after a year or two at CC.   But it's very costly so I'm not even sure about that.

 

He got a job at a welding shop for the summer as a general helper with the hope that he'll show himself to be so teachable and willing to work that maybe they will let him learn something on the job there.

 

He'll figure it out because he seems to be pretty competent, but there really is no educational support.

 

ETA: Just to be clear... we would not expect comprehensive blacksmithing career programs. That is more of a fun thing, though he would be great as a smithy at a living history museum.   Career focus would be welding, with blacksmithing a somewhat related hobby. 

Edited by marbel
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The thing that bothers me about the word is that it sounds to my ears like a really lazy use of the English language. We have so many wonderful, descriptive words. Why narrow down to the most general? Why not artisan, craftsman, inventor, or any other relevant term for what we are describing? Maker? It sounds like I have the vocabulary of a three year old when I use that term, so I don't.

 

Mainly because the "maker" term encompasses all those things and more. Inventor wouldn't apply to a quilter, and artisan wouldn't apply to a person who makes robots. Craftsman really doesn't sound right when applied to say, a person making their own wine. Maker is designed to be a broader category that covers all those things. 

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I'm pertty sure it originated with "Make Magazine" and the "Maker Faires" they put on which lead to "Maker Spaces."

 

If you've never been to a Maker Faire, they are amazing...just crazy creative stuff, robotics contests, recycled fashion, massive lego displays, Rube Goldburg devices, etc.  When I first heard it I didn't like the name either, but it's grown on me.  Something about having a robotics "tinkering" spot next to a place where kids can sew pillowcases and calling creators of both "makers" takes away this sort of hierarchy between different types of design (and also, takes away a little bit of the "this type of thing is for girls, this type is for boys" distinction." )  Putting "crafters, metalworkers, technicians, programmers, fashion designers, artists, woodworkers, etc" all under the term of "Maker" and inviting them to share at one event focuses on the creativity that's behind all these types of disciplines and creates a sort of comradery that's infectious.

 

And Maker Spaces are just cool (though most are too expensive for me).  I've toured one though.  They are a place where people can share the cost of expensive tools:  the one I toured had things like 3D printers, lazer cutters, kilns, a automated quilting machine, all sorts of cutting and polishing tools, ect., etc.   They're also known as "Hacker Spaces" and by other names.  Maker Spaces I think is one company/organization that does them.

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by goldenecho
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Mainly because the "maker" term encompasses all those things and more. Inventor wouldn't apply to a quilter, and artisan wouldn't apply to a person who makes robots. Craftsman really doesn't sound right when applied to say, a person making their own wine. Maker is designed to be a broader category that covers all those things. 

 

Hmm, I don't know - I think artisan of craftsman really applies to all of those things.  And most of tehm have significant cross-overs as well.  Language managed to accommodate all of these designations easily enough in the past.

 

I live in a province with a lot of working artists, but what is interesting is that even if they do "fine art" it isn't where most of them make their money.  They almost all also have craft or srtisanal work that is related.  For example, I know a fellow who is a scrimshaw artist, and some of his "fine art" peices are beautifu.  They are also too expensive for most people, both because the materials like whole walrus tusks are very expensive, and because the time commitment is so large.

 

Most of what he sells are "artisanal" peices.  They tend to be done on less expensive more readily avaialble materials like piano keys.  And while each is hand made and unique, they tend to follow a set of patterns and be similar - so they maintain high quality while taking less time.  That is the bread and butter kind of thing that really sells - most people can afford a few as gifts and such.

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I agree, oh boy do I agree.

 

My son has always been fascinated with blacksmithing and has taken a couple of glasses in that and welding.   As a homeschooler he could not participate in the programs at our local vo-tech high school.  (When he was the age to register, he was having a lot of health problems and we had other stuff going on, so I didn't have the wherewithal to fight it.  I've heard that there is a movement afoot to change that, too late for us but I hope it works out.)  Anyway, later on he took an adult ed. class at night - at the same school.  But not as comprehensive, not free to us via tax dollars, and with no job/career help as part of the class.

 

Our county community college and the 2 adjacent county CCs have ZERO shop-type classes.  The closest thing here in an upper-level art class in welding/metal sculpture. There is just nothing for people who are interested in the trades. There is a state university that has trades programs, so we are hoping he can transfer there after a year or two at CC.   But it's very costly so I'm not even sure about that.

 

He got a job at a welding shop for the summer as a general helper with the hope that he'll show himself to be so teachable and willing to work that maybe they will let him learn something on the job there.

 

He'll figure it out because he seems to be pretty competent, but there really is no educational support.

 

ETA: Just to be clear... we would not expect comprehensive blacksmithing career programs. That is more of a fun thing, though he would be great as a smithy at a living history museum.   Career focus would be welding, with blacksmithing a somewhat related hobby. 

 

I wonder where the people doing work in your state get their training, then?

 

Technical and trade programs everywhere seem to have been under stress for the last 40 years or so, however I think we are better off than you seem to be.  There are lots of trades training programs in our community college system (which is a little different than what you have in the US.)  And there are some other avenues as well - the agricultural college has some as does the art college.

 

There is actually a professional blacksmith at one of our local farmer's markets who makes a living at it.  I believe he did work at a museum early on, but now he works largely out of his own shop. 

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