When discussing maker culture, much attention is dedicated to how making can be beneficial for specific fields (e.g. healthcare, education) or various communities of makers (e.g. educators, crafters). The democratic ideal of personal fabrication and the maker culture movement – represented by the growth of open makerspaces (e.g. FabLabs, makerspaces) and online communities (e.g. ‘Instructables’, ‘Thingiverse’) worldwide – provides everyone with the opportunity to make (almost) anything. However, structurally engaging non-expert users still remains an important challenge for most open makerspaces. Therefore, this article focuses on the potential of open makerspaces for communities and – more specifically – how to involve non-expert users in these open makerspaces. Framed within the fields of Participatory Design and infrastructuring, this article presents two case studies – ‘Hack-a-thing’ and ‘Making Things’ – that are part of a long-term participation process of engaging local non-expert users in FabLab Genk. In these cases, the involved non-expert users entailed teenagers, children and their supervisors (for instance, supervisors involved in participating youth organisations). The case studies show that building relations with existing communities of non-expert users and creating conditions for them to self-organise their activities within open makerspaces are essential starting points for processes of long-term engagement.
Authors: Katrien Dreessen, Selina Schepers, Danny Leen