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let us be makers

March 13, 2011

rube goldberg. the epitome of a maker.

i made a rather large mistake in my previous post.  i presented a caveat, stating that the post had nothing to do with education.  false.  to be sure, in some indirect but not overly roundabout way the post had something to do with education and geography (as does every single post we toss up, and as does the blog in its entirety).  but also in a more direct way.  the grassroots mapmaking gig is very much about education.  in so, so many ways.  and it also ties very nicely into the post i have been trying to gather together the last few days which has been delayed largely by the fact that i misplaced some of the readings i had been, well, reading, in preparation for this post.  but i found them.  so game on.  here’s the deal:  we are makers.  some of us more so than others, but i believe that it is in our human nature to make.  psychologists, anthropologists, geneticists, and all sorts of other scientists can all go argue about the science for or against this statement.  i don’t care.  i don’t always believe everything i think, but i think and believe that we are all born makers.  that it is a common and natural tendency in humans.  some are inclined to make music, some to make tools or build houses, some to invent mechanical apparati, some to make visual art, some to make dance, some to make maps, some to make stories, etc, etc…but i believe at our core we humans are predisposed to being makers.

in my family, at least on my dad’s side, we tend towards a more mechanically inclined sort of making.  this does not mean that we are necessarily good at this sort of making (although none of us appear to be as yet bad at it), but it seems to be the sort of making that most interests us.  is this a genetic predisposition??  christ, i have no idea.  i will say though that all of us were raised in an environment that was very amicable to tinkering and making in general but to mechanical tinkerings in particular.  on the flip side i also know people raised in very scientificy households that became visual artists.  so as to whether our particular making inclinations are nature or nurture, like i said, no idea.  i would like to point out though that in all the above cases there was lots of making go on.  although the precise manifestation of that making may have differed from family to family and even between parents and offspring, there was obviously an environment that was very makerly friendly.  while i certainly believe that it is human nature to make, i also think the environment in which we are raised can have a huge impact on not only the specific type of making that we feel inclined towards, but on our ability to make in general.  like any species, certain behaviors can be trained out of us, despite what our true nature might be.  so, it certainly doesn’t hurt to be raised in an environment conducive to being a maker of one sort or another.  and our making is certainly changing…lots of forms of making are becoming more computer based and making is, in some regards, getting much more technical.  but this transition hasn’t dissuaded the more pedestrian or old fashioned makers.  in fact in many circles there is a bit of a renaissance movement to keeping old crafts alive.  i would like to point out i think there is unquestionably a difference between simply making and crafting.  i consider craft a more finely tuned, more specific, more involved and time consuming form of making.  a higher form of making, so to speak.  i would now like to take a moment and share with you these two videos in regards to making.

this is a ted talk by the man who publishes make magazine.  i don’t necessarily agree with everything he says, but it’s an interesting video nonetheless.



this is a music video but really is just a giant, awesome, rube goldberg machine.


i would like to encourage you to go over to ok go’s youtube page.  they have a lot of other really awesome music videos.  one involving hidden notre dame marching band members (an alternate version of let it go this too shall pass), one involving mapping (gps parade), another involving puppies (white knuckles) and yet another involving some pretty awesome treadmill routines (here it goes again).  they also have a bunch of behind the scenes videos, in particular about the process of making the above rube goldberg video.  they’re quite interesting.  so go do that.  but not until after you’ve finished reading this post.  obviously.

i will now take a moment to raise some concerns.  actually really just one.  what concerns me is that in some regards it feels as if our educational systems, our home lives, and our cultural in general are becoming less conducive to making…and in far too many cases often inhibit our natural curiosity and maker tendencies.  are sat’s and standardized testing important?  yes but only as a means to an end.  as stand alone entities there is not a whole lot i can think of that is less important.  they are not what make us human.  they are what get us into college where, ideally, we can maximize our abilities to be makers and critical thinkers.  so if your kid is building models or out making forts or banging on the drums or drawing or dancing instead of doing their math homework…give them a second…let them make.  if they insist on “fixing” the radio that may or may not actually be broken…consider it an investment in their future, give them a part of the garage or basement.

anyway…i suppose i just wanted to plant a seed for thought…about being makers and about creating environments that support and further nurture what i think is a fairly widespread human inclination to make.  create environments where your kids are encouraged to tinker…work on craft projects with them, let them take apart old electronics, help them build dollhouses or birdhouses or model cars, encourage them to play music, to dance, encourage them to collaborate on projects with friends and family.  and if you haven’t read david brooks piece that sam posted about (it is the post directly previous to the one you are currently reading) you should go do it now.

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