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Why I Am Not a Maker (theatlantic.com)
128 points by Tarrosion on Jan 23, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 97 comments



I look at the "maker" movement (a term that's been co-opted enough to rub me the wrong way) as being a reaction to the consumer culture that came before it. I grew up in an environment where "homemade" was equivalent to "couldn't afford to buy it" which meant "poor" and all of the negative stigma that carries.

I love that the idea of being a "maker" pushes against that and carries the ethos that something doesn't have to be a manufactured product from a brand name company to have real value.

But, of course, like any movement, it can be taken too far and over time the label becomes a caricature of itself. (See also: "hack".) I agree with her that focusing too much on "making stuff" does devalue people whose passion is more about taking care of people and things.

That's something I think the "DIY" movement before "makers" had a more nuanced perspective. The "DI" part was more open to interpretation. Fixing a broken toaster, conducting your own wedding ceremony, and crashing on couches while touring with your band instead of hiring a tour company are all "DIY" but don't seem to fit in the current definition of a "maker".


It's funny that DIY is seen as a "movement", like alternative lifestyle.

When you're poor, or from a poor country, DIY is the absolute default. My experience growing up in latin america during the 80's taught me only cashing out at the store after exhausting all possibilities of building/fixing something at home. People would often fix their own speakers, sound systems, TVs, clothes washer, cars, and so on - to the point the more easily serviceable brands were sought after, not the top-notch ones.


I recently traveled through some rural, non-tourist parts of Mexico and found exactly this attitude. I thought I had some of it -- I know how to make dirt, food, clothing, yarn/rope, soap, candles, beer, wine, etc, and the car has been repaired innumerable times -- but the level of DIY in these regions blew me away again. The vision, talent, and know-how to just get things done, which I also hear about from my American grandfather. A different level than just replacing a part in our washing machine.

My only other criticism of the original article is that if it's going to get gendered, we do need to think about the making that women have traditionally done. Food and textiles come to mind right off the bat.


> I know how to make dirt,

Composting?


Yeah, likely means "how to make topsoil" or "how to make arable dirt". An awful lot of land needs to be converted to something that can sustain the right kind of plants for humans to live on.


Heh, I fool around with cars. I have far, far more respect for a guy who built his own machine than someone who wrote a check for it. Even more for the guy who machined his own parts.

When I was in college, the cool thing to do was to design and build your own stereo system from discrete parts. Some did quite a stunning job of things like machining front panels out of raw stock.

Making your own stuff is viscerally satisfying in a way that's hard to describe.


I am not sure it's fair to imply the statement "I am a maker" is equivalent to "I am only a maker; it is the whole of my identity" any more than the same would be true for "I am a dancer" or "I am a cyclist". Even for people for whom it is very important, I am not sure it amounts to some sort of rejection of care or support for others (isn't part of the romance of the maker movement that people support each other, rather than relying on whatever is handed down from corporations?) Certainly one obvious criticism of identifying making things as a masculine activity in modern society is that the problem is excluding women and girls from these activities, starting early in the educational process, and reinforcing it with films, books, etc. that downplay making in favor of caring. In essence, this article cements that traditional division, by saying 'making is male, caring is female' which doesn't seem like a promising route to increase either encouraging more caring from men and boys, or more making from women and girls. As to whether we "need to make more things" at all, we clearly do and always will - not just for the sake of making them, but because we need clothes, homes, tools, etc. and those, I would suggest, can always be made better.


An alternative point of view is that the Maker culture is basically arts and crafts for men so it actually is a positive example of "raising our sons more like our daughters", to use her example. It provides a positive creative outlet that isn't about competition, success, building a business, etc. which almost all men's activities seem to have to be centered on.

In any event, thought provoking article...


How do you and the author see this at all as a gender issue? The author says that coding is making "because it is widely perceived to be done by men" and that there are "gendered, capitalist benefits of being a person who makes products."

I am utterly baffled. Where does this even come from? How do you look at this issue and see even a whiff of anything related to gender?


Those statements just blew the whole article for me. Feels like an article that was supposed to be about identity and labels has an overt agenda/chip creeping in. Those quotes so far out of left field.. They feel really out of place.


> How do you look at this issue and see even a whiff of anything related to gender?

How about the article's explanation? It requires historical context (that is, can't be looked at in a vacuum).

> Walk through a museum. Look around a city. Almost all the artifacts that we value as a society were made by or at the order of men. But behind every one is an invisible infrastructure of labor—primarily caregiving, in its various aspects—that is mostly performed by women.

yes? or no?


>yes? or no?

No. Until I see some proof that these men were incompetent/useless until they had a caregiver, I think this is complete bogus to justify a role that wasn't really needed. If full-time caregiving was required, you would not encounter single people that could function in society and you would never meet a child with both parents employed.


Agree with the single people aspect, but a child whose parents are both employed is being cared by someone else. And unless the parents are well-off, that someone else is either not paid or badly paid.


I agree profusely. This article was just beginning to get interesting when the author started dropping these gender bombs. I see absolutely no reason to give quarter to such ideas.


"A fanatic is someone who can't change his mind and won't change the subject".


That was my reaction too, but given all the reading of late I've been trying to do in order to understand WTF GamerGate is, I am reminded to start out by saying that we should be careful not to come across as questioning the validity of this author's experiences at all. I've read a few "GG" pieces written by men saying something along the lines of, "hey this sucks, but it's really not that bad WTF". Saying things that I could've written. For example, I get annoyed at the ALL OPEN SOURCE DEVS ARE ARSEHATS characterizations because I happen to have been involved in a few over the years which honestly haven't been this way. There, I tried to recruit (as did fellow developers) and offer commit access regardless of gender and (in at least one case I'm aware of) non-conventional gender identity. And we weren't code-snobs: this includes doc-only and other community contributors. But this was a "boring" project mostly maintained by $dayjob people, so perhaps all the obnoxious jerks found other havens. Additionally, as a white english-speaking male, perhaps I'm poorly placed to make this assessment and perhaps there were injustices that I just couldn't see as such.

Then there's the reactions to these (insensitive? ignorant?) pieces. The main take-home point I've learnt reading @freebsdgirl is: just because a few of us rich white english-speaking males have had a good old time and barely any insurmountable problems in our particular corners of the internet... is great, but completely irrelevant to the fact that a lot of women are disproportionately having a bad time.

Back to the article, I still feel compelled though to share just how odd it felt reading that making was a male thing. By the time I was 5, my parents' farm had failed - the next 10 years were a struggle for them, but for me it was a time that cemented my curiosity and creativity by having to improvise everything. I am forced to rethink this: if I was born a girl, what else could I have done with my time? Didn't my own father constantly find ways to express his view that real men didn't sit around all day on computers? Is it just a fluke that my younger brothers' girlfriends could weld better than me? And when we were 14, being shown by a girl I knew how the primer worked (she was fixing a routine blockage) on a quirky, ancient diesel stationery engine? Is being a rich white male warping my perspective that much?

There were terrible gender imbalances at the time. Some too depressing to write about. But being able to make, modify and repair stuff was a universal skill that I hadn't - until now - considered genderized.

My daughter loves helping me take apart and repair things, just as I did when I was her age. But now odd thoughts occur: were the girls I knew growing up so equipped with "maker" skills because we lived in a poorer area? Or was it the rural living? Perhaps both? If this is the case, does that mean my daughter will have fewer opportunities to pursue these skills without the same pressures I grew up with?


I had a very similar experience growing up. We weren't poor, but I was the oldest of 5 kids, so resources were thin. Instead of toys that would be out of fashion in a month, my mother would get junk from Goodwill and the Salvation Army (broken vacuum cleaners, VCRs, etc) and my father would let me use his tools to disassemble the stuff. I don't remember ever really fixing anything, but I do remember the joy of tearing a machine down, examining the principal components and reasoning about their function. I don't know if I had a natural disposition that my parent's guided, or if their solution for keeping my quite and entertained had just rewired my brain, but that activity has had the single greatest impact on my life. No it didn't lead me to a career in vacuum repair, I'm a programmer (a C programmer... so the vacuum repairman of programming).

I don't know what to think about the gender angle... my mother is sort of a Rosie the Riveter figure. Incredibly self sufficient, creative and industrious. The only point of contention that I remember, between her and dad, was how she would never put his tools back after using them. He eventually assembled a secret 2nd set of tools.

Lol, I just had a flashback of a funny exchange that was the result of my fearless tinkering. I was a Marine infantry machinegunner, in Fallujah 10 years ago, with a broken long range AN/PAS-13B thermal-optic gunsight. The battalion armorer was about an hour's drive away, and the odds of getting ambushed on the road were pretty high at the time, so I really didn't want to muster a convoy for one broken piece of equipment. Instead, I grabbed a headlamp and a leatherman - then headed to the only place where you could get some privacy: the shitter. I had to do this in private, because the Corps really frowns on this sort of thing - PAS-13s are expensive. I'll never forget the look on the company commander's face after he pulled back the shitter curtain to find me in the dark, wrist deep in the PAS-13's guts. "Corporal... are you operating outside your echelon of maintenance?" I hesitated, trying to figure out what the captain wanted to hear. "No sir?" He stared for a couple of seconds, probably trying to figure me out in the same way, then slowly lowered the curtain back into place. I managed to fix it though, one of the few things I ever tore down and returned to a functioning state.


That's a cool story! I've also had "are you sure you're qualified to do that" conversations when working in remote areas on drilling rigs... certainly character-building thinking you've only further permanently damaged some $60K+ piece of equipment, and possible rig down-time costing $30K+ per day, only to get it working in the end and save the day :-)

But just as a follow-up to my own post: after surveying the females in my family, they all seem to agree that "making stuff" is a male thing, because males all get the credit... I guess I was just ignorant when I wrote the above post.


Except that it's becoming increasingly co-opted by commerce. How many non-commercial "maker" events are there? Make Magazine and various others are explictly selling the maker ethos, and using the maker "brand" to sell other things.


That's true, and it's why I only exhibited at Maker Faire once. We felt we were being used as free entertainers for a flea market.


Michael's also sells more than just the literal stuff in their store - they sell the entire notion of doing things yourself. It's no different. All it means is that "man crafts" have caught up to "woman crafts".


An illustrative division would be: Micheals is predominantly "woman crafts" in that the main portion of the store is devoted to the classical archetypal "woman work" like knitting, crochet, decorating, etc. Yes it sells the entire notion of DIY. I think last I was in there was one isle that was classical "man stuff".

However, the main store behind the notion of DIY for men is Home Depot (and the other hardware stores). The inverse is shown here where the décor section usually takes up one isle.

We need to stop assigning gender roles to activities. I have a 20 month old son, and me and my wife try very hard to not genderize behaviours or activities.


The difficulty is getting everyone else around you (especially grandparents and other family) not to do the genderizing. It almost gets to the point where I'd rather they not interact with my children.


"An alternative point of view is that the Maker culture is basically arts and crafts for men ..." Yes ... because of course making is for boys and "arts and crafts" is for girls. [Sigh]


My perspective on makerspaces and the maker movement is that it's something stemming from people who didn't really spend time in the blue collar world where jerry rigging, fixing, creating physical devices, etc are normative behavior.

It seems to be located in particular cultural class segments - monied, urban, technologist, etc. And, unfortunately, it's become a marketing Thing, e.g., Make Magazine.

While I am a member of a makerspace, I suspect I'd be just as happy if it was oriented exclusively towards social F/OSS coding to the exclusion of the other aspects (but there's nothing like that in Seattle, and I don't have the energy or social capital to found one).


As a farmer, jerry rigging, fixing, etc. are major tenants of the job, but I still find myself drawn to making. I believe it is driven mostly by the desire of education. There's always something new to learn, and the maker movement has made those resources even more accessible.


I'm a construction worker, and I'm the guy who fixes everyone else's screw ups. We're normally the guys who're called in when the first guy did a hack job.

I love building things. I think the maker movement is just making it more accessible, and more specifically less time consuming.

One of my dreams is to build my own house, and I've got sketches and diagrams, etc. piling up. And the other day I had the thought "I wish I had a 3D printer, because it would be so easy to print out a model." There's no way in hell I'm going to spend days of work hand assembling a model. I would spend an evening making a design to print out, and then spend a couple hours painting it.


> unfortunately, it's become a marketing Thing, e.g., Make Magazine

Well, I'm not so sure about "unfortunately". My kids read that magazine with great interest, and have learned quite a few things as a result.


[deleted]


Urban Dictionary says:

"This term was created during WW2, in reference to the Germans who were referred to as "Jerries" as slang. Allies often came across hastily repaired objects left by the Germans hence the term Jerry-Rig came to be."

Independently verified by my grandfather, who is 97 and is in fact a genuine "Ally".

"Jury rigging" is something else altogether and is usually considered a crime.


No, jury rig is the original nautical term dating back to at least 1788. The term likely originated from French words either ajurie meaning "help/relief" or jour meaning "a day" and joined with the word rig (relating to the ships rigging).

Jury rig literally meant a temporary fix to the mast to support the rigging.

It was likely corrupted in WW2, and I highly doubt it came from the implication of the Urban Dictionary article. The Germans were incredible engineers, and often over engineered their equipment. Jerry rigging likely meant the work that the allied forces did to use the German equipment as some of the earliest uses seem to stem from the airborne forces dropped behind German lines who were under orders to commandeer their equipment. Jerry rig then likely became the phrase for what you did to fix the equipment the Germans sabotaged during their retreat.

I've never read of the Germans retreating and leaving repaired equipment for the allies, so I'd put a lot of money on that being an absolute bullshit claim.


A piece of equipment could be left repaired due to damage, and I could easily imagine the repairs being hasty or haphazard, given they're in a war zone, due to lack of materials. So it's not that far fetched.


Yes it is far fetched. Most equipment left behind was sabotaged, as is the nature of war.

The phrase jury rigged means "use what you have to make it work". It's a logical corruption that you jury rigged the jerries equipment. It makes no sense at all that you would even find it worth mentioning that the Germans repaired their own equipment.

The logical origin is that the uses were using Jerry Rigged to mean Jury Rigging German equipment. Not that the Germans would also Jury Rig their equipment, that's like inventing a word to say they also tied their fucking shoe laces.


For what it's worth, Google about 195,000 results for "jerry rig" and about 187,000 results for "jury rig".


For what it's worth, make that 195,001 and 187,001.


They've been interchangeable since about the 1960's, unless you work in a maritime industry, where you would be correct.


Either term is appropriate, and understandable by all.


I certainly agree with the author's point about the importance of teaching/caring for others/etc., but I don't think it is a sound argument to say that making is a "male" process, so therefore a society that values making things is a society that undervalues women. Certainly there are two valid things to discuss there, but the conflation of maker value and sexism seems very forced.


When will we stop thinking in terms of "How things look through my glasses". I.E. My glasses have red tint, so the whole world looks red. Your glasses have a green tint, so likewise, the world is green to you.

Some identify their car as feminine, as in, "She's fast, I tell you what!". Others identify their vehicles as masculine, "This guy right here, he can do 0-60 in under 6 seconds!"

The part that bugs me is when you are wearing red glasses and you tell me the world is red, even though I have green ones and tell you with (my own) certainty that it is not. In reality, these definitions shift all the time, as does your eye-wear (tomorrow I'm thinking of wearing blue glasses) as the combination of properties that make you YOU evolve.

Gender can be like glasses sometimes. While our perceptions are a complicated combination of all sorts of properties, i.e. "I'm male with blue glasses who grew up in California." + 1,000,000 * otherThings... wearing blue glasses is a common denominator. So, yes, when you only cite female sources, and you are talking about hard to measure concepts like the quality a word implies (where quality is based on perception), it’s very easy to reason that something like “Maker” can have both gender and classism baked in.

Luckily, due to this same phenomenon, tomorrow the author may review her article and think, “My that was a silly argument”. Likewise, I may do the same.


All lenses are not equal. Reality is the way things work despite our lenses. Opaque lenses give a misleading view of reality. Clear lenses give an accurate view of reality.


There is no knowledge of reality without a lens.


What actually happens despite how I think things work is reality. If I'm bad at judging the consequences of my actions then my view of reality is poor. Just because all knowledge is seen through lenses doesn't mean all lenses are equal. A person who can predict the consequences of actions accurately is seeing the world through clear lenses.

There was a time when no one knew the equations of gravity in exquisitely rigorous detail, yet if you walked off a cliff, you would fall. http://www.yudkowsky.net/rational/the-simple-truth/


It's funny that in a discussion about sexism, you are hanging your hat on the objectivity of physics.


Here's a quick reminder about why sexism is bad. Sexism is bad because it disadvantages people through no fault of their own. Sexism is part of reality. Theories and opinions about sexism do not effect the actual impact of sexism. You could be looking through a lens where you can't see inequality, but that doesn't mean there is none.


That's not exactly what she's saying. She's basically advocating for 'non-making' roles in society, and contending that society undervalues 'non-making' roles as a result of undervaluing women's roles in society, since they traditionally occupied 'non-making' roles.

Note these paragraphs in particular:

"The cultural primacy of making, especially in tech culture—that it is intrinsically superior to not-making, to repair, analysis, and especially caregiving—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."

"A quote often attributed to Gloria Steinem says: “We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons... but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.” Maker culture, with its goal to get everyone access to the traditionally male domain of making, has focused on the first. But its success means that it further devalues the traditionally female domain of caregiving, by continuing to enforce the idea that only making things is valuable. Rather, I want to see us recognize the work of the educators, those that analyze and characterize and critique, everyone who fixes things, all the other people who do valuable work with and for others—above all, the caregivers—whose work isn’t about something you can put in a box and sell."

Which I think is a pretty reasonable argument.


The core premise that society undervalues "non-making" seems wrong, though. It can certainly feel that way when you hang around in specific circles and subcultures where it is disproportionately represented (as the author presumably does, mentioning technology), but on a macro level Western culture is in favor of positions that have historically been considered prestigious and well-paid - law, medicine, finance and so forth.

Someone whose title includes "manager" is likely held in higher regard, than say, someone with "engineer". Doesn't matter what kind of manager, the term itself has positive connotations to laymen.

Then of course, artists are stereotypically associated with bohemianism and poverty.

As an example, certain aspects that encompass "maker culture", including many fields that fundamentally intersect with programming, aren't even formal professions.


Not to mention the fact that modern feminism is focusing mainly on getting women into 'non-making' jobs, specifically because of the reasons you mention.

Working as a builder (can't think of anything more 'maker' than that) isn't particularly glamorous. Being a lawyer/banker/exec is.

Software development is relatively unique in the way that it gives you the ability to command a reasonable salary whilst straddling the line between directly producing and facilitating production.


Personally, I think the "maker" culture was (also) a great way to recognize the contribution of women who traditionally made a lot of things from scratch for the home, etc. Someone else here made the same point, I believe. The article does seem to go out of its way to make a point that could stand on its own. I am the first to admit I question people who don't make things, but "just" criticize, however that has nothing to do with gender, but with a different kind of bias.


I still haven't found a compiler that compiles source code differently based on a user's gender or identity...


How about colleagues and upper management that criticize that code differently?


Upper management look at code, ha!

Every team I've been on has criticized each other's code equally harsh. If coding standards weren't followed (whoops, you missed a space between parenths, try again!) they'd be called out, if someone had a better idea for an implementation / approach, they were free to speak up and heard out. When I started out on one team I thought I was being unfairly criticized, until I saw others make the same mistakes I was and boom, they received the same feedback. As time went on and I was able to better follow agreed upon standards, and my implementations (and test cases) improved in quality, I was called out less and less, unless I made a mistake again. The focus in the reviews was always about the code and never who wrote the code - this is great because it helps break down the idea that the criticism is about the person rather than (correctly) the inert code.

The point I'm alluding to in my OP is to is similar the debate/discussion about AI and spirituality [Jaron Lanier's essay here - http://edge.org/conversation/the-myth-of-ai]. When people frame this tech / gender discussion, it's always "gender issues in tech" and I think that is (pedantically) wrong. The technology (source code, compiler, CPU) have no native understanding of a user nor their identity. They treat the input exactly the same. A node interacting with another node. So it's not really "gender issues in tech" but rather, "gender issues in society, but with a focus on the technology industry / market" It's a pedantic point, but by not being explicitly clear in definitions and discussion framing, there tends to be a leakage of irrelevant facts/statistics/feelings that contaminates discussions and derails productive conversations. When that happens, discussions fall back into their usual talking points and counter-points rather than focusing on producing solutions.


You acknowledge that you have a pedantic hangup over the semantics of the phrase "gender issues in tech", and then you construct this elaborate straw man about how the technology itself is gender agnostic (which is not a revelation, it is true of literally all inanimate objects) and that the gender issues are in society as a whole.

But what you haven't done is acknowledge that the tech industry has its own manifestation of sexism that is distinct from that of wider society, in some ways more pernicious, and in fact we've regressed in the last 20 years.

I also have to say, the way that you constructed this whole argument perfectly illustrates why sexism is tech is a difficult problem: tech people tend to be smart and well-reasoned, and often have a liberal and egalitarian self-image, so it's very easy for them to construct a solid case for why they themselves could never be racist or sexist. All the while blissfully ignorant of the reality other people are experiencing. I'm deliberately not using the hot-button label for white males in this context because I think it's counter productive, but just stop for a minute a consider that your experience might not apply to everyone.


It's not an elaborate strawman to want clearer definitions and a cleaner scope for discussion. Further you have not proven,

> then you construct this elaborate straw man about how the technology itself is gender agnostic [...] and that the gender issues are in society as a whole

is factually wrong. You admit that technology as a whole is gender agnostic, so you actually agree with my premise.

And actually I have acknowledged that there is sexism in tech because it is progressed by individuals (read: people) that come from a society. That society provides the context to their actions and motivations, regardless of which industry they are employed in (though each industry will vary in specifics). When one limits the discussion to only the tech industry they prevent any comparisons to other industries, both at a specific point in time as well as long-term / trends, which limits the ability to judge and measure progress. Limiting the judging to merely internal progress means that one will be unsure if that industry is progressing faster or slower than other industries wrt whatever we're discussing (in this case, gender issues in tech). In addition, it prevents people from discussing where industry A has made progress that industry B can look to, or learn from the mistakes of industry C. That is not possible if the discussion is silo-ed within only a single industry.

Also, what do Caucasians have to do with gender? That came out of no where, how is that relevant to this? You also seem to imply that I don't believe I could ever make a sexist comment or action, yet I never stated that, so why would you imply that? You're projecting yourself onto my words, please stop, it's disingenuous.

Welp, here's a thesis that concludes that men who treat women equally are seen as treating women as inferiors - https://uwspace.uwaterloo.ca/bitstream/handle/10012/6958/Yeu...

So if that thesis can be reproduced, then all gender issues need to be reexamined as they'd be tainted by bias of treating men who treat women equally as men who are sexist.

You haven't actually proven anything I've said to be incorrect, you've just tried to take it out of context and ignore some points here and there as a means to discredit my words and intentions. I'm sorry I treat people equally (we're all individual nodes in this big cog of society) and other people do not, but the fact remains, the framing of the discussion is inherently limiting to making progress by limiting the scope and depth of such a discussion.


It's telling that you're so quick to support your argument with the same misleading and over-generalized summary which has been circulating heavily in the Men's Rights community recently.

I would strongly suggest actually reading the study rather relying on someone else's summary. In particular, pay attention to the reason why she ran the second study and what was actually being measured, namely reactions to this paragraph:

“I disagree with the many people who think that women should be cherished and protected by men. You know I’m strongly against that whole idea that in a disaster women should always be rescued before men. And I really don’t agree with those who say that men should put women on a pedestal or that men are incomplete without women in their lives. There seems to be this popular attitude that women are more pure and moral than men and that women should therefore be treated with greater respect than men, but I think that’s a lot of nonsense.”

The second study found that simply prefixing that paragraph with “I’m a firm believer in equality between men and women. And because of that” removed much of the ambiguity which lead many people to conclude that the author was probably a misogynist.

Beyond that, simply looking at the test is already telling you that this isn't the sweeping result certain defensive men are claiming – it's a single study measuring reactions to a single, somewhat stilted paragraph over the internet in isolation (they used Mechanical Turk to get participants). That doesn't mean that it's not a decent study but it would immediately tell you not to believe the results apply generally to complex real-world interactions where few normal people randomly state manifestos like that and almost everything happens in a context with a history of past interactions which guide the listener's interpretation.


> It's telling that you're so quick to support your argument with the same misleading and over-generalized summary which has been circulating heavily in the Men's Rights community recently.

Never heard of that, this was posted and upvoted on a Reddit thread a few times. What's the Men's Right's community? Does the idea-association with this "Men's Right's Community" mean that any idea is thus tainted and rendered \0? EDIT: What's actually telling and scary is the attempt? to discredit an idea or study simply because someone else or some other community referenced it. That's a nice easy way to censor ideas one does not agree with, "X agrees with Y, and X are bad, so don't believe Y" /EDIT

The only reason I brought this study up is to point out that definitions can be skewed and treating people equally can be seen as not treating people equally. If that is true, than any conclusion reached with a faulty premise and definition would need a re-examination, no? It's weird people are hesitant to re-examine their beliefs, why is that? It's not a personal attack on people, it's a desire for everyone to get along more peacefully through more factual information. Surely that's not a bad thing?

> The second study found that simply prefixing that paragraph with “I’m a firm believer in equality between men and women. And because of that” removed much of the ambiguity which lead many people to conclude that the author was probably a misogynist.

But that IMO is huge. If you have to prefix action A with a clause yet that same action A without the prefix is seen as manifestation of the irrational hatred of 50% of the population, then what does that say about the ability of people to look at an action with an unbiased perspective?


The author makes some interesting points, and I think this is a valuable read. But I'd like to add that the author seems to be using a somewhat different definition of "maker" than what I'm familiar with. At least around Durham and SplatSpace (our local Maker/Hacker space), "maker" is seen in a very inclusive sense, and there's no sense of superiority associated with those who "create whole new things" vs those who "just tinker" and those who "teach" or "write", etc. In fact, we consider education to be one of our primary missions, and we do a lot of "stuff" around the space that's designed to simply share existing knowledge: "how to solder" workshops, "electronic kit building" workshops, "learn to 3D print" workshops, etc.

Our space also encompasses people whose interests range from paper-based arts and crafts, to knitting, to metalworking, to woodworking, to 3D printing, to hobby electronics, to amateur robotics, to software development, to netsec / pentesting, etc., etc., etc. We consider all of these people to be makers/ hackers in their own way.

This is the way I've always approached the Maker community and I feel like most of the other locals I know approach it the same way. Maybe this varies by geography though?


That sounds just like the Dallas Makerspace. There is no bias towards certain types of projects there, and in fact there has been some cross-pollination between seemingly unrelated groups that would not have occurred had those groups been siloed.


SplatSpace sounds intriguing! I'll have to look for a similar organization in Austin.


"Makers" don't make more money (her example is community manager vs programmer) because there is some abstract philosophical belief that makers are more valuable. Programmers make more money than community managers because there is more demand that is harder to fill.


This just feels like a giant false dichotomy. I have yet to see a maker fair that wasn't dominated by two things. First, people showing expensive toys. Second, schools and people that want to show you how they did stuff.

Now, the first thing is somewhat annoying, if they want you to buy them. But, none of the complaints of this article address that.

The second stands in stark contrast to this entire article.

And the gendered ideas just don't make sense. As another thread pointed out, "making stuff at home" is traditionally a female dominated field. In the form of sewing and related activities. Oddly, I bet you will find more men that know how to use a sewing machine at a maker fair than you will pretty much anywhere else.

Or... are we talking about completely different "maker" movements?


The words "make" & "create" are often implicitly scoped to a certain set of activities. Zooming out, we all make culture, things, actions, love, etc. Our actions & creations all flow together.

The fundamental game of capitalism is one that celebrates & encourages scarcity & "value" creation. Good programmers are paid well because good programmers are "scarce", while someone who is good at community building is perceived as less "scarce". In our economic system, it's easier to quantify the value of a product than a community or happiness.

We do know that good communities make good things & good culture. We are learning that encouraging abundance encourages creativity & collaboration.

We all have our opinions on how it's going to happen. My view is we need to transmute this artificially competitive culture to a collaborative culture.

The competitive culture causes hoarding, overconsumption, disrespect, etc. The collaborative culture encourages interdependence, respect, novelty, & compassion. It may be humanity's biggest challenge with the greatest upside.


First world problem... In most parts of the world makers are under appreciated, look the company structure (outside silicon valley) coders are at the bottom, the same happens with a lot of "maker" professions.


I am a maker. I am also a gamer, caregiver, teacher, student, craftsman and consumer.

No one label defines me, or restricts what I am able to do.

The Maker label has gained traction, but I think all of that traction has actually been positive. It implies not only creation, but also creativity, curiousness, cooperation, and equality. It doesn't care about your gender, race, or even your socioeconomic situation (I'd even go so far to say that it revels in the creative repurposing of "trash").

I have never heard it implied that people who don't make are somehow less; in my experience someone who self-associates with the "Maker" label is more interested in how they can help than putting down someone whose life passion is in the care of children or the preparation of meals or even the collection of trash.


Exactly. To claim one particular 'hobbyist' label (or sportsman, or programmer, or enthusiast, or whatever), doesn't mean that your entire identity is defined by that label.

Of course "makers" are excited and enthusiastic about their label because they enjoy what they do. But it doesn't mean that they are judging others or that this is the only thing they do!


Precisely. In fact, I chose the term "maker" for my blog: http://ai-maker.com/ and the gist of it is teaching, discussing, critiquing and creating stuff related to Artificial Intelligence (in this particular case). To me, none of the aforementioned topics is incompatible.


Off topic: Self promotion is not prohibited on HN, in fact it's even (semi) encouraged. But I feel like I've seen link to your blog too many times lately. And indeed, looking at your comment history, it seems to me that every other comment is a content-free plug to the blog. That's a bit too excessive


I disagree with Debbie Chachra, the author of the article. She is a maker. She writes articles. She probably creates lectures as well as white papers, since she's a professor of Materials Science at Olin.

Making stuff doesn't necessarily begin and end with just physical things.

> The cultural primacy of making, especially in tech culture—that it is intrinsically superior to not-making, to repair, analysis, and especially caregiving

I can't say much for 'not-making' but I can imagine arguments that support people who repair, analyze, and even those who provide 'caregiving' (think plants and animals that eventually turn into a sandwich).

If Chachra's article is right about Maker culture both now in and in the past, it doesn't mean that we can't change it.


From the article:

"People have happily informed me that I am a maker because I use phrases like 'design learning experiences,' which is mistaking what I do (teaching) for what I’m actually trying to help elicit (learning). To characterize what I do as 'making' is to mistake the methods—courses, workshops, editorials—for the effects. Or, worse, if you say that I 'make' other people, you are diminishing their agency and role in sense-making, as if their learning is something I do to them."


It's missing the forest for the trees though. It's a superficial statement to say that the 'creation' in education is the course notes. What an educator creates is understanding. It's not a physical object, but it's still something that was not there before. The course notes may not differ from year to year, but the same can be said of the blueprints for common models in 3d printing - the blueprints are not the created item.

Taylor Mali has a great rebuttal on "what teachers make". In context, 'make' means 'salary', but the rebuttal works just as well against the idea that day-to-day education isn't a creative endeavour: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxsOVK4syxU


> What an educator creates is understanding.

I don't disagree with you here.

> It's a superficial statement to say that the 'creation' in education is the course notes.

I'm not saying that the only end product for educators are course notes. My main argument is that more people, like educators, can and should be considered 'people who create stuff'. I'm only arguing that 'makers' are not some exclusive, elitist club of people who only make certain physical things that make money.


She doesn't actually rationalize why you can't say that she creates / produces courses, workshops, or editorials. She just says it's wrong. (I don't disagree with the last sentence you quoted about 'making' people though.) Am I wrong?

To paraphrase my other response, so if I don't consider myself a writer, yet I produce articles and stories; is it wrong for people to consider me a writer?


She is disingenuously trying to say hat what you do is irrelevant, the focus should be on the results you obtain. And she feels that "creating" is distinct from "cultivating" (which shares agency with the object of your work). Language lawyering is fun, and sometimes edifying to tease apart nuance, but she's trying too hard to be a smartass here.


Exactly. The whole point of her article is to make the claim that she is better than you.


From your first sentence, you missed the point completely. She's not a maker because she doesn't consider herself a maker. You're trying to project your own ideas of what a maker is onto her, and it makes her uncomfortable:

>* I’m uncomfortable with any culture that encourages you take on an entire identity, rather than to express a facet of your own identity


So if I don't consider myself a programmer, even though other people consider me one because I create software; there's something wrong with that?

Did we encourage her to write? Is this article not an expression of herself? Is she not a materials engineer?

Also I don't see why 'maker' can't be 'someone who makes things'.

Maybe I'm not all too familiar with 'maker culture'. I didn't realize that there were so many formal rules for a non-centralized movement. I just felt it was a bunch of people with the same idea that it's better to create something for fun at least once in a while instead of just consuming 24/7.


Makers today are what hackers used to be before criminals took over the term. I wholly welcome the change. It's nice to have a word that embodies all of the good stuff from hacker culture but leaves the baggage far behind.


For me, the word "maker" embodies some kind of wannabe hacker culture (much like the "rock star programmer" crowd). Somehow in most people that label themselves "maker" I see more of self-marketing than actual technical know how.


Your complaint has a ring of truth. But it applies equally well to anyone who takes on a label for themselves.


I'll bet that's what the original fixers thought, too. :-)


This critique is important as the idea of "makers" grows, and thus can have the effect the author is describing, i.e. devaluing things that are not "makers" along lines based in cultural associations with traditional roles.

However, the movement and the concept are an opposition of "maker" to "consumer", not to all things things that aren't "maker". As pnathan notes elsewhere in the thread, it came from groups (mostly white colla) that felt they were escaping that "consumer" world that was being imposed on them.


"Maker" is a trademark, a business meme, a customer movement, a manufactured lifestyle, a social branding strategy, invented and run by O'Reilly Media.

It's not evil and corrupt, like Oracle, but it's not grass roots and organic, like the Occupy movement.

http://www.thebaffler.com/salvos/the-meme-hustler

http://radar.oreilly.com/2013/01/why-we-spun-out-maker-media...


I think the growing disenchantment that pops up towards makers like this from time to time is most closely related to a certain smugness that accompanies the presentation of the thing. A certain sense that maker culture is onto something special, that they are the seeds of some sort of movement.

I more or less agree with the sentiment others have expressed that maker culture is nothing new, and has existed in all socioeconomic strata of many -- yes, mostly male -- groups of societies for a long time.

But in my short life thus far, at least in the circles I travel in, maker culture has lately achieved a certain mainstreaming, which looks to me at least somewhat more inclusive and generally accessible than I recall from my youth. The internet has something to do with this. It looks to me to be on balance a net plus for society.

The reaction of the author is natural swing of the pendulum, reminding others that there are other important things besides simple creation, material or otherwise. She also draws important attention to a natural side effect of capitalism, which is that things that generate capital are highly prized, sometimes out of proportion to what they actually deserved, when society is looked at as a whole.


> As a teenager, I read Ayn Rand on how any work that needed to be done day after day was meaningless, and that only creating new things was a worthwhile endeavor.

Ayn Rand advocated the exact opposite of this. (i.e., that all productive work is morally worthwile.)

I stopped reading here. Lying about Ayn Rand is not respectable journalism, though attacking Rand is now a badge of honor among certain groups.


Well, yes. Ayn Rand was opposed to make-work but not to valuable, real work.

That said, it's baffling to specify that "Lying about Ayn Rand is not respectable…" as though other sorts of lies are.

Attacking Rand in general is like attacking astrology. People attack it because too many others actually believe the bullshit nonsense that it is. Of course, it's pretty dumb to attack it for the wrong reasons like in this case. There's plenty of valid reasons to dismiss Rand's nonsense without needing to mis-characterize her views.


What do you think is wrong with Ayn Rand? I'm an extremely intelligent person, I've studied her work for many years, and I think she's right. And there are a lot of people like me, and the number is increasing. (I'm not making an argument from authority here; i.e., that is not an argument that she is right.)

edit: And I take it for granted that lying is not generally acceptable. I didn't mean to imply that it's worse to lie about Ayn Rand than something else.

another edit: And I don't mean to goad you into discussing this. If you say you don't want to get into a huge philosophical discussion, I'm not going to say "see, you don't have any argument" or some crap like that.


I don't think anyone is claiming that makers are superior. Aside from founders and early hires in startups, makers are often making something in a medium or large company for a manager, a sales team, or an investor. That's not the top of the chain.


What is the goal of education?

I would submit one aspect is imparting knowledge to people in order to improve their potential.

Another aspect, depending on the type of education, is simply building better people.

Seems to me, that's making. Making better people with more potential.

It's all in the framing kids.


In most parts of the world, makers are under appreciated, yet they continue making things. It's about the passion of creating things.. The author does not get it.


The author gets that entirely, after all, she has done the same.

Her point is that we have begun to fetishize the idea of making as somehow superior to other pursuits. What started off as a good thing (a contrast to consumerism and receiving whole products and whole systems from others, as other commenters have suggested) has been raised in value far beyond the worth of anyone who does not "produce" "tangible" "things"...

...the author being an excellent example, what with her being "only" a professor of engineering. She is "building" generations of makers, an activity valuable in its own right, and yet others feel the need to somehow tag her as a "maker", a label she rejects, in order to somehow validate her work.

The broader point is that we do a poor job of recognizing the inherent value in many roles - not financial, necessarily, though we fetishize that as well - and that we therefore run the risk of distracting worthy occupants of those roles with our "only one way to contribute" dogma.


Is this a first world problem? maybe that's why i don't get it. In most parts of the world, makers are the ones who are perceived to have less value, get pay less and have less recognition than the business types, the managers, etc.


ironically, anti-consumerism makers set themselves as antagonists to the hardworking foreign maker in factories.


teach: "I make people understand; I make lectures full of explanations that convey insight; I make assignments and tests; I make tomorrow's makers".

criticize: "I make revelations of shortcomings and flaws; I make recommendations for improvements".

take care of others: "I make broken people whole"

Some ideas on what to write on a name tag next to "I make: "

- "a six figure salary doing something I like"

- "love, not war"

- "mrproper config uImage"


You make too much sense for the run of the mill liberal.


this article is a argument that the name "Maker" devalues people who... don't make things? that seems accurate, but also trivial.


This is the most confused article I have read in a long time.

1. "Maker" is one way to self-improve. As an engineer, it means that I pick up basic knowledge of other engineering domains in my free time, which lets me be a better engineer. As an entrepreneur, it lets me stay creative, and see what is possible.

2. Not being a maker is no more of a criticism than not doing pro-bono legal work, not volunteering, not engaging in continuing education, not being a cyclist, not doing yogo, or a million other things we do to make ourselves better people or the world a better place. We all do a few of them. None of us have time for all of them. The bad alternative is watching TV. There is no stigma attached with not being a maker, anymore than there is with not doing yoga.

3. Maker is not, and never has been, about the artifacts. It's about the creativity, the process, and the learning. It's fundamentally anti-materialistic. After a decade of making, I can sew. I can weld. I can machine. I can woodwork. I can code. I can design electronics. I can do a hundred other things. That makes me a better, more versatile individual than I was a decade ago. It's also fundamentally different from making as blue collar work. Every artifact I've produced was about bettering myself or doing something creative.

4. On the other hand, she embodies why there is a stigma attached with being a homemaker, educator, and similar:

"As an educator, the work I do is superficially the same, year on year. That’s because all of the actual change, the actual effects, are at the interface between me as an educator, my students, and the learning experiences I design for them."

I have a child. I have taken several courses in early childhood development. It makes me a better parent -- in very obvious ways. It saves me time in the net -- when my child has a behavior problem that I see other parents struggle with, I can usually resolve it quickly and efficiently. However, among homemakers, there is a stigma attached with knowing what you're doing. The attitude is "we don't need somebody telling us how to raise our children," no matter how strong the evidence. Scientific research is confounded with parenting articles on link-bait sites. Properly raising children is essential, but that's not what most stay-at-home moms do, most nannys do, or all but the most elite childcares do. Early childhood development has been binned into a blue collar job, and we see the unfortunate effects of that.

Teaching is very similar, especially at a college level. People clueless about teaching-and-learning run courses. At this point, I've taken about a dozen MOOCs in teaching-and-learning. I've engaged in a number of experimental teaching projects. All of my courses are blended. I actively and continuously measure the outcomes of how I run courses, use that to improve them, and when possible, publish about it.

If homemaking and teaching were to apply the same level of rigor to their work as engineering and coding, the level of those professions would go up to where it belongs. As it is, it has unfortunately become unskilled, blue collar work, and the author of the article embodies why.


The point of the article is to blame all her personal problems on fuzzy men.


Maker is code word for "white male privilege". Stop the sea lioning and mansplaining.


And the Manterrupting.




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