Tag Archives: Guardian

Why Shenzhen is the factory of the world for Makers

Writing for the UK-based Guardian, Georgina Voss notes that hosting a Maker Faire in Shenzhen, which some describe as the “factory of the world,” makes quite a lot of sense.

Indeed, Dale Dougherty, founder of MAKE Magazine and creator of Maker Faire, recently confirmed that the first official Maker Faire held in Shenzhen earlier this month successfully celebrated the emergence of the Maker Movement in China, while recognizing the significance of the city as a global capital for DIY culture.

“The city’s history rippled into Maker Faire Shenzhen, which sat in the shadow of high-rises. As expected, many of the classic Maker Faire features were in place: soldering workshops, talks by ‘Makers’, people looking awkward in Google Glass,” Voss explains.

“Yet Maker Faires are often characterized by lots of DIY projects and arts-tech mash-ups and these were conspicuously lacking. Instead, most stalls were occupied by fully realized electronics products – brainwave-controlled drones, robots, lots and lots of 3D printers – either ready for market, or in their beta stage and shipping later in the year.”

According to Voss, the region’s strengths in consumer electronics may also be particularly well-suited to the potential outputs of ‘Maker to Market’ outputs, starting with simplified prototypes built on open hardware technologies such as Arduino boards.

“Several hardware start-up accelerators have also set up shop in the city, including Haxlr8r and PCH’s Highway 1, and they acknowledge that […] regional innovation systems exist: participants spend time in Shenzhen to learn about the manufacturing and supply chain networks in the city, before being returned to the Bay Area to pitch for funding,” says Voss.

“The easy-to-use, flexible and low-cost technologies which underpin [accelerators] – open hardware microcontrollers and 3D printers, for example – have their own materiality and their own geography.”

Voss also points out that all of the factors which define Shenzhen as a competitive industry hub make it particularly attractive to Makers, including cheap and available raw materials, manufacturing skills and facilities, as well as clear entry points into supply chains.

“The ‘Maker’ identity can be framed by flattened shared qualities and values, working with technologies whose provenance is not always transparent. But nothing in technology is so simple or so isolated,” she concluded.

“Maker Faire Shenzhen shines a light on the externalities and ecosystems of making itself: the political regimes which regulate; the infrastructures which support it; the forms of work that drive it; and the culture and history that shape it.”

The full text of “Making in China: Maker Faire Shenzhen Highlights the Global Politics of the Maker Movement,” written by Georgina Voss is available on The Guardian here. Readers may also want to check out “Atmel looks back at Maker Faire Shenzhen” which can be read here.

Why brands need to recognize Maker culture

Writing for the UK-based Guardian, Dan Northover says DIY Maker culture is beginning to have a significant impact on today’s consumers.

“Mike Senese, executive editor of Make Magazine, believes our culture is transforming from a top-down consumer culture to a more one-to-one DIY culture focused on Making,” Northover explains.

“[Clearly], access to social media, 3D printers, affordable sensors and circuitry are changing the way millennials view brands. Top-down control simply doesn’t work for those belonging to the so-called Generation Y, instead they expect to immediately influence brands and modify products to suit themselves.”

Richard Goldsmith, director of social media at Mark Anthony Brands, confirms the DIY trend will prompt more brands to offer customizable open source design files for their customers to modify.

“There are plenty of them out there already. MakieLab founder Alice Taylor started with a simple idea to let people make their own dolls using 3D printing. This has since extended into laser-cut dolls clothes and MakieLab games,” says Northover.

“Last year Campbell’s Soup ran the Hack the Kitchen competition for mobile app creators, while Starbucks is tapping into the maker community’s creativity with Mystarbucksidea.com and Nokia has released the design files for its phone cases so people can customize them and make their own.”

As Northover notes, there is clearly a significant industry shift towards the DIY Maker culture.

“[True], nobody really knows where that’s going to take us. [However], what we do know is that teens of today will grow up with Maker culture as second nature, and soon we’ll all need to realize that the idea of making isn’t reserved just for handcrafted bikes or artisan pickles,” he adds.