Bringing maker culture to cultural organisations #vala14 #p5

Mia Ridge Bringing maker culture to cultural organisations

Should museums, libraries and archives be places where new creations are inspired and made? Yes – they always have been inspiring novels, etc. Ability to engage has a deep impact on people. A broad view of making: researching family tree, fixing and tweaking things, creating entirely new things. May do for relaxation, for stimulation, to learn new skills, to use old skills. Prefers “Maker attitude” over “Maker culture”.

Everyone probably grew up making: lego, macrame, home electronics. With lego changing and becoming more pre-configured, do kids still have the access to a toy that gives them the opportunity to make?
Hacking – setting yourself a challenge and trying to solve it in an elegant way and/or in a time limit. It’s a communal activity, even if not physically in a room with people. Github is a conversation.

Maker spaces. Not fussy about definitions. Shared equipment. Cf the tool library. “The average drill is used for twelve minutes of its entire life cycle.”

Baking can be creative – or it can be putting together a cake mix.
Collecting now you don’t need to own the object – can pull collections together in Flickr, Pinterest, DigitalNZ, etc.
Content creation on social media – blogging, tweeting.
But different levels of what making can be.
Augmented reality – still broadcast – someone else has already determined what the experience will be but you’re just triggering.
Yarn bombing.
Ravelry pattern pulled from Trove newspaper page – recreating the past.

Crowdsourcing: transcribing text that exists – Old Weather transcribing ship logs to get weather data. People doing this getting intrigued by incidental info on the page, getting interested in particular ships, noticing lots of people becoming ill and wondering if this is the start of the Spanish Flu?

3D printing trilobite by MuseumVictoria. Met Museum of Art doing a lot as well. Jonathan Monaghan doing a 3D mashup Leda and the Marsyas. Learning by copying is actually an oldschool model.

Sugru – stuff in a packet that’s strong, slightly yielding – can use to fix things, mould things exactly to your hand. Reliable enough that mountain climbers use.

Kickstarter cf the 19th century subscription model “I’m going off to the South Pole, please to fund me.” Makey Makey. Lower barrier to entry can be very important.

As a child, had to type games into computer line by line from magazine. One character wrong and it wouldn’t work. And started noticing some numbers related to eg number of lives. Nowadays tools exist (eg Scratch) but don’t come with computer, you have to go hunting for it.

Why she likes making: it’s “hard fun” – you might fail and have to unpick why and fix it. Hackathons as a retreat – removed from everyday constraints, in shared environment, but very very hard. In one, she (and others) made Serendip-o-matic, simultaneously releasing code on Github.

It’s always been about problem solving. Museums have loads of objects with rubbish descriptions, eg “Pot”. Set herself the challenge of taking boring science museum objects and trying to get people to engage with them via casual gaming. Wanted to take advantage of the “I’ll just play one more game”. By putting a game narrative around it, people were less intimidated.

In some ways going back to the days of bespoke. Can tailor things, fix things, follow your imagination, gain new skills, creating fans, creating community. (Creators shouldn’t flip out when fans critique them – these fans are engaging because they love you/your stuff.) Having fun, learning, thinking through making, deeper engagement with science and heritage.

Four keys to fun:

Easy fun (Novelty) Hard fun (Challenge)
People fun (Friendship) Serious Fun (Meaning)

Ideally a makerspace will include all kinds.

Engagement: attending -> participating -> deciding -> producing

Pretty scathing of modern Lego – not just the deeply gendered nature of it, but there’s so much less creativity involved than there used to be. Need to create spaces where kids can take risks and be self-motivated in their learning.

Maker spaces can be physical, digital, but also intellectual. (Doesn’t give examples of physical spaces because we’re librarians, we know how to look them up.) Could have a space next to a sausage sizzle. Could have a hack day – something powerful in just blocking out time/space, facilitating meetings between people. Intellectual space by opening up content/data for people to use it. People adapt existing software, even create new software – not just people interested in culture/heritage, but also those who think it’s just fun to play with. However you need to think about who has agency.

hotlinked Je participe, tu participes, il participe, nous participons, vous participez, ils profitent

Libraries aren’t always as welcome as they’d like to be. We have little hedging constraints that contribute to uneasiness. “Have your say” but not listening to answers we don’t like can be worse than never asking. Is our language encouraging or intimidating? Be a secret shopper: look at others’ maker spaces, look at how shopping centres run events.

It takes time to get spaces right – learn with your communities, understand the potential of new technologies.

  • Curate a collection online
  • Hold internal hack days
  • Create space to be playful
  • Try visualising your data
  • Hold an editathon – improve Wikipedia where it lacks content relevant to your area (great way to get people to think about referencing)
  • Reflect, learn, share – even if it didn’t work out perfectly tell people so they can learn from our mistakes and we can learn from theirs

Q: [Musing on craft and Diderot]
A: Have sanitised how we think about knowledge. It’s how we do things as well as how we think about things.

Q: “Creativity good, libraries increase creativity, therefore libraries good.” But what is creativity?
A: It’s a continuum. Lots of photography is hugely creative but you’re working with what’s already there. Is just snapping everything creativity? It’s not a binary state

Q: Wondering about ‘boring issues’ of liability with drills and sewing machines.
A: Well, there’s the argument of natural selection… Tension between organisations needing to protect themselves and you’re working with things that could injure you. Schools must have dealt with this. Could actually make maker spaces more exciting to tell kids that this is a dangerous activity.

Q: [something about visualisations]
A: “You must learn to code” trope is a bit iffy. Coding isn’t a special skill but does require an investment of time. Need to teach kids that world is structured by software. Visualisations can be useful to teach that. Textmining methods – can tweak the algorithm and even if they don’t understand the mechanism they can get the idea that the algorithm affects the results.

Comment: “Cotton wool children vs free range children”. One school got rid of all rules, and incidences of bullying hugely dropped.
Comment: It’s about letting go.
A: Often we don’t quite trust the audience to understand what they should do so we set up these really boring paths. OTOH a completely unscaffolded experience is no fun either. So need to work out where we let go.

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