ICT has already revolutionized content creation and communications. In principle, today, everybody with Internet access, the right skills and equipment can produce digital content composed of virtual “bits” and make it instantly available across the globe. The same is now happening to manufacturing for everyone with access to tools like 3D printers. This inter-changeability of bits and atoms is being called the maker movement, which started as a community-based, socially-driven bottom-up movement but is today also impacting mainstream manufacturing through increased efficiencies, distributed local production and the circular economy. The maker movement thus has significant promise for increasing social, economic and environmental sustainability, but is it currently living up to this potential? This paper reports on work undertaken by the European-funded MAKE-IT
project has examined this question through detailed qualitative and quantitative empirical research, including ten in-depth case studies across Europe and a detailed examination of 42 maker initiatives at Europe’s foremost city-based maker faire, supplemented by extensive secondary research. Despite the maker movement’s short history, the overall results provide sound evidence of its important though variable contribution to sustainability thus far. In addition, there is a strong gender dimension showing that females are underrepresented both as users and leaders of maker initiatives, whilst female leaders tend to achieve much higher sustainability impacts than their male counterparts. There is also clear evidence that maker initiatives in close collaboration with each other and other actors in city- and region-wide ecosystems are much more successful in achieving sustainability impacts than others.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited