Why Don't I Like the Sound of 'Makerspace'?

In this line of work we tend to bump into the terms 'Maker Movement' and 'Makerspaces' quite often. Every time I do, I shudder just a bit. I just don't like it, but why?

I think it's similar to the reason I started this blog- I felt that teachers in classrooms weren't taken seriously in educational policy because our work usually isn't considered research. After reading so many studies in grad school I really wondered where the teacher's voices were. It's similar to all the hype about maker spaces. Why isn't just making things good enough on it's own? Making things, building things, tinkering, inventing are things children do with no prompting at all. With a little scaffolding they can take these creations to levels of ingenuousness and beauty that astound me every day.

In researching this issue I found this excellent article by Debbie Chachra that argues that making is seen as valuable because it leads to products that can be sold:
"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."  (why-i-am-not-a-maker)

But I'll argue further, that the only things that are seen as worthwhile are 'makes' that use technology and can be hashtagged. The other day I was reading a story about a man explaining something to a woman that she already knew- the trendy term 'mansplaining'. I realized that I get the same feeling about that as I do about the maker thing. I don't know if I'd equate the Maker Movement with mansplaining- maybe it's PhD-splaining. But either way I find it belittling to the (mostly women) teachers and children who were teaching and learning, making and even using technology before the maker manifesto was a twinkle in anyone's eye.

To quote Lauren Britton in another series of articles: "The idea that ‘we are all Makers’ is repeated constantly through the discourse of the maker movement, yet the power and opportunity purported to emerge from this movement is strongly focused on STEM education and the ‘tools of production’. It is frequently said, as quoted above, that making is not limited to the tech experts or pro-amateurs, that cooking, coding, and beekeeping are all making (which is true) and that all are equally valuable (which much of the discourse would actually reject)."

I've been making things all of my life. Some of the things are more highbrow like fine art, and some not, like sewing clothes. I've been helping children make things for a really long time too. I know how much new understanding I have gotten from the processes I've used, and how much learning children gain from the same. Why isn't this kind of making taken seriously? Why must it be rebranded and codified? 

Lauren Britton again:
"If technical tinkering, STEM, and digital fabrication are the economic forces that will empower Makers, and women and people of color are not participating in these activities in a visible way, that power will remain unequally distributed. When gender is discussed in relation to the maker movement, the conversation starts with the notion that Making creates a unique opportunity for inclusive participation, and is quickly followed by the question ‘how can we get more women to participate?’ Generally, the responses focus on transforming women, on areas that need to be corrected, such as raising confidence, creating more woman/girl friendly learning environments, increasing ability in math and science, and so on. The women themselves cause the problem; they lack confidence, they are unable to learn in the ‘normal’ STEM environment, they do not embrace their full capability in math and science. It is the women who are deficient."

I am hopeful that as more voices are taken into consideration in our modern culture, that creativity, intuition and beauty can find real, permanent places in schooling. I hope through my own work I can show that science, engineering and technology aren't inherently more valuable than the 'soft skills' that I possess, even if they are historically more highly valued. I hope I can keep on providing media and materials to children. Maybe one day the school where I work will build the new space that many of us have dreamed of and talked about. This space will be huge and have woodworking tools and maybe a forge next to the easels and sewing supplies. Pippin and I have been calling it our workshop.


  1. http://craftsmanship.net/let-tinkerbell-tinker/

    have you read this article yet?

  2. Your perspectives regarding this issue align with my own concerns. While some "Makerspaces" (for instance, the MAKESHOP at Pittsburgh's Children's Museum) demonstrate positive aspects of this movement, many others reflect the issues that you have pointed out. Lauren Britton's articles articulate this further--thanks for including quotes and links.


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