DIY Makers Researchers Colloqium

  • DIY Makers Researchers Colloqium: Half-Day Workshop at MakerFaire UK 2014
  • Date and venue: 25 April 2014, Culture Lab, Newcastle University
  • Number of attendees: 15
  • Lead organiser: Andreas Reiter, Horizon CDT Student, University of Nottingham

The first ever activity to be funded by the Digital Economy Network called for participation by researchers across the UK who were doing research into making, crafting, hacking and topics linked to these.

Event overview

The aim of the event was to enable participants to get a sense of what research is being done into the “maker” Community. It was held on 25 April 2014 (PM) in the Culture Lab workshop at Newcastle University. The event also included a weekend pass for MakerFaire UK 2014, which was taking palace the following two days at the Life Science Centre in Newcastle upon Tyne.  The colloquium itself was followed by a social dinner to enable participants to network and get to know each other’s interests better.

The 15 researchers who participated came from Universities across the UK (Newcastle, Nottingham, Lancaster, Leeds, Loughborough and Bath), which given the short time frame from funding approval to the actual event happening, can be considered highly successful. Four of the participating researchers were makers themselves and were exhibiting at MakerFaire UK 2014.

Workshop format

The workshop format itself was inspired by barCamps or so-called “Unconferences”, where attendants receive information about who else will be participating as it becomes available. The second key characteristic of this format is that there is no pre-determined order of talks – the activities and the time table is decided by the attendees on the day and is therefore highly flexible. BarCamps highly depend on the participants, and have to be split into different tracks to keep group sizes effective and discussions focussed. 15 participants turned out to be exactly the right number for our round; any more would have necessitated a split. In our case, the track turned into a discussion and exchange of knowledge involving various aspects of maker culture and making.

Discussion topics

The topics discussed included:

  • prototyping and additive manufacturing
  • maker motivations
  • innovation and entrepreneurship
  • authenticity and quality;
  • responsibility, liability and sharing;
  • attitudes toward failure,
  • the aesthetics of maker culture; inclusion in maker spaces; education within groups of peers; the application of (open?) standards in DIY;

This provided plenty of food for the following two days of talking to makers at MakerFaire UK.

The event was therefore perceived to be very fruitful for everyone, to quote one researcher: “it was just like a conference, but with all the boring parts left out!”

Outcomes and follow up

The outcome of the event was that all attendants would like for a “maker” special interest group to be created, one way discussed to do this would be to follow the model of having meetings alongside related events, such as the upcoming MiniMakerFaire in Manchester or other conventions and conferences.

The event was followed up by the organiser sending out his meeting notes, and possible future activities for the “makers/hackers/crafters” research interest group include:

  1. A workshop enabling us to actually build, create and make prototypes, possibly centered around a task or one of the themes discussed in the first workshop
  2. The set-up of effective means of communications within the group such as a mailing list, twitter, facebook or linkedin group, etc. (to be determined – links via twitter have already been established)
  3. The distribution of tasks amongst the members with the goal of creating a piece of writing (such as a document, website or shared blog post), which would express key points of maker culture and maker space research. This could potentially contribute to further “advertise” the maker research interest group, making it grow more and then inform the agenda of:
  4. following workshops or conferences (which will likely not follow a conventional conference style again, given the success of the DIY Researchers colloquium).
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