What’s Next for Makerspaces?
Since our local ad-hoc maker community of strangers bootstrapped the start of the maker movement in Dallas over a decade ago, Dallas Makerspace hasn’t been the only epicenter of maker culture. A handful of community makerspaces have come and gone. But a new type of makerspace has spread widely throughout the country due to government funding for libraries, primary schools, and colleges. Since the pandemic, Dallas Makerspace has seen over a thousand makers keep their memberships active in order to support the organization’s original mission. However, things have changed since the pandemic. They have certainly changed since 2010 when we opened. The competition has multiplied. There are so many spaces opening these days, each with a different sounding name, including makerspaces, hackerspaces, and FabLabs.
Many of these organizations aren’t typical makerspaces in the traditional sense of the term. In addition to FabLabs, we have seen the trend where companies set up a room with a 3D printer and a laser cutter and call it a makerspace. Libraries and schools do this too. They want to seem innovative and on-trend, but they also want to impose managerial control on overall resources. Because of this, they don’t bring what made Dallas Makerspace special, which was a self-governing, do-cratic, anarchistic group of makers who created a magical community and came up with really cool ideas.
These non-do-cratic forms of makerspaces have a place. I believe the maker brand has been tempered to the point where many people (especially parents) see makerspaces as places for children to learn how to make things. A diluted version of the maker model has been adopted in schools and libraries (programs subsidized through grants and city funding) in which children are now the primary users.
They compete with community makerspaces for funding and resources, which is detrimental to organizations like Dallas Makerspace. Community groups of volunteers are not motivated to keep up if they compete with an organization with professional fundraising staff. Makerspaces seem to appear in every library and school now. Clearly, they’re here to stay as a means of fostering a kind of learning style difficult to find in a classroom.
As Dallas Makerspace has matured, despite the massive decline in maker community engagement since 2019, I think the movement as a whole is still relatively healthy, even if less engaged collectively than before. Those of you who have not faced any challenges at your makerspace deserve my admiration, and I hope that do-cratic-driven governance remains an important tool for innovation in the future. I feel like I have seen all the ways it could possibly fail. Still, you should support your local makerspace. For many of us, makerspaces are a passion because they have so many positive effects on our community.
It would be amazing if I could receive even more support for my maker endeavors in the coming decade. The world will certainly change as our economy and technologies shift.
I always welcome your ideas! What are the makerspace trends you hope to see in the future? How would your dream makerspace look in 10, 20, and 30 years?
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Mark Havens is the Founder and Executive Director of Dallas Maker Community (DMC), a nonprofit organized to bootstrap Dallas Makerspace, the largest all-volunteer makerspace in the United States. DMC continues reformed efforts to provide maker-focused marketing and makerspace leadership education to other maker-centric organizations throughout North Texas.