The Faustian Bargain of the Maker

The end of Make: Magazine and the rise and fall of a community?

Alasdair Allan

--

A towering balloon ‘Makey’ robot at Maker Faire New York 2016. (📷: Alasdair Allan)

The news today that Maker Media, the company behind both Maker Faire and Make: Magazine, has closed its doors for the last and final time is going to come as a shock to a lot of people. Because while there have always been makers, what we think of today as the maker movement began in the early naughties, and a big part of that movement was built around both Maker Faire and Make: Magazine. I know. I was there.

The early Maker Faires were a special place, and while perhaps they weren’t the cause of the growing maker movement they gave it a home. I wasn’t the only person I know to have found my people amongst the makers of the faire. However this year’s Bay Area faire, held only a couple of weeks ago, may well now turn out to have have been the last of the big Maker Faires.

“Maker Faire wants you!” from Maker Faire UK 2015. (📷: Alasdair Allan)

I first worked a faire back in 2011 as part of the Maker Media editorial team. The Maker Faire crew was a tight knit bunch, we thought of ourselves as the carnies of the next industrial revolution. A renaissance in manufacturing was coming, and we were at the heart of it.

“…we thought of ourselves as the carnies of the next industrial revolution. A renaissance in manufacturing was coming, and we were at the heart of it.”

I grew up in a steel making town just as the steel mills were closing, so I know exactly what the loss of manufacturing jobs mean to a community, and how it changes the way of life for the people in that community. I understand why the calls for the return of manufacturing are strong, because life for many people really was better back then. But those manufacturing jobs are never coming back. However different jobs, maker jobs, could replace them, and we could make that happen.

A smoke ring cannon from Maker Faire Bay Area 2015. (📷: Alasdair Allan)

--

--