China’s Maker Movement is rapidly evolving

Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Emily Parker confirms that the wildly popular DIY Maker Movement is gaining serious ground in China. As readers of Bits & Pieces know, Makers often gather at hackerspaces, or makerspaces, real-world locations where they can learn and work together.

Unsurprisingly, there are over a dozen spaces dedicated to Makers in China, a figure that is expected to significantly increase in the near future. One such Maker space is Xinchejian, or “new workshop.”

Founded in 2010, the space is located in a rented Shanghai warehouse, although a DIY Pop Up version of Xinchejian fashioned out of shipping container recently made its first successful appearance at the Creative Faire in Shanghai. According to the Xinchejian team, the space attracted numerous visitors interested in 3D printing, robotics, Atmel-powered Arduino boards and Maker Culture.

Taiwan-born David Li, a 40-year-old programmer and a co-founder of Xinchejian, told the WSJ he wants to lower the barriers for experimentation and play.

“It’s not about getting together a group of geeks doing something. [Rather], it’s a conduit for people to say, ‘This interactive stuff is not that scary, not that difficult,'” he explained. “The policy makers we meet here are genuinely very curious. They have the resources. They are not afraid to try. They could build bridges to nowhere and they will still have a job.”

Indeed, Makers may very well develop the next groundbreaking technology, or at least that is the hope of Chinese policy makers.

“Chinese industry has to change. It has to migrate to the next stage,” Benjamin Koo, an associate professor of industrial engineering at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, told the WSJ. “Right now it’s purely contract-based. We execute what other people design.”

Seeed Studio in Shenzhen is another outpost for China’s Maker Movement, with the company’s posters featuring Che Guevara calling for people to come together and “challenge the hegemony of industrialized mass production in an unprecedented way.”

“China is on the way. The first time you learn to write, you cannot write novels. You have to copy from the textbook to learn to write A, B, C, D,” said Seeed founder Eric Pan. “When designs go big, the traditional manufacturer will have new products to make. We are providing more candidates.”

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the evolving DIY Maker Movement is a global phenomenon, limited only by the imagination of an individual. Indeed, as The Verge’s Adrianne Jeffries recently noted, it is now all but “impossible” to deny that DIY is in.

“Every part of the ‘Maker movement,’ a big-tent phenomenon that covers everything from homemade jewelry to homemade drones, is booming,” Jeffries wrote. “Outside of the Make Media empire, there’s been an explosion of crowdfunded maker projects on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. On the other end of the business spectrum, [the Atmel-powered] MakerBot, one of the best-known companies in the Maker Movement, was just bought by a public company for $604 million.”

According to Jeffries, it makes perfect sense that Making is trendy right now, as Maker culture encourages empowerment: skill over money, building over buying, creation over consumption.

“The maker movement covers bicycles that generate electricity, art projects that light up when you press a button and the enormous genre of how-to videos on YouTube. It’s in line with the eco-friendly and buy local movements, the back-to-artisanal aesthetic and the geek worship that are also part of the post-aught zeitgeist,” he added.

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