Making And Participation

by Brian Haven
@ 8:00 AM

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» Design Thinking
» Participation
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I've been thinking about how the dialogue between institutions and constituents has changed quite a bit over time and how that relates to the concept of making. I think you can break the participants of making down into three categories (keep in mind that when I refer to things, products, or making, I'm referring to what is made--an artifact, service, system, environment, communication, etc., 'product' doesn't necessarily mean a physical object.):

The first type of participant, the individual, is a person who uses that which is made and in some cases is the maker of things (typically for themselves or close affiliates). The second participant, the specialist, is an artisan or craftsman with highly developed skills that yields products created on behalf of the individual. The third participant, the enterprise, is a formal or semi-formal group of people engaged in an organizational effort to make things.

These types of participants align with the shifts in ages of human history (hunter-gatherer to agrarian to industrial). But what's really interesting is how in today's information age, all three still apply. These shifts in the act of making fall into four distinct periods:

The 4 Epochs of Making

  1. Making By People—No means of production, every individual must make and procure everything they need to survive.

  2. Making For People—Division of labor, specialists emerge to focus on key skills, initiating the marketplace for trade.

  3. Making Without People—Mechanized manufacturing and the assembly line place the mans of production into the hands of the enterprise, initiating the concept of "the consumer."

  4. Making With People—Production is democratized, allowing any person to make (still in the early phase).

This leads me to the conclusion that what ever the next 'age' is (Collaboration? Social? Innovation?), it seems that this hierarchy of participants starts to reverse to the individual maker at the top, while still retaining all of the benefits and economies of scale that come from the enterprise model. When we get to a point where you can print 3D objects and circuit boards at home to make your own products, the dynamics and role of the enterprise will be radically different than the slight discomfort institutions feel today.


05 Dec 2008
Pete and I were chatting the other morning down in...

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12 Dec 2008
As I mentioned in my previous post, Making By People...

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