Making With People

by Brian Haven
@ 2:03 PM

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I’ve talked about the four epochs of making over the past several weeks: Making By People, Making For People, and Making Without People. We’re now facing another epoch in making, a shift where institutions no longer completely control the means of production. People now take over the reigns of production, much like our past, but mass distribution is still a possibility. And in many cases the institution is still involved in the making, but as a facilitator rather than a controller. This is an epoch I call Making With People.

At the heart of this shift is participation. But this type of making is fundamentally different than what institutions are used to. It’s a special type of participative process where people modify things in ways that extend them into unintended design spaces. They adapt and merge things into entirely new possibilities, with or without consent from the original creator.
[So Cal 1970 Choppers by bcmacsac1 from flickr]
These initial acts of change become widespread and groups of people formalize to support ongoing efforts. The groups eventually grow, and their efforts are exposed to much broader audiences, brining in new members that are often less savvy than the original members. Eventually, large institutions that are the original creators take notice and begin to respond (sometimes positively, but often negatively). This cyclical process ensures growth in the movement while fundamentally changing the process and actors who do the making.

There are two primary actors in this process.

  • Originating Enterprises: Typically large institutions that possess the means of production, usually for commercial purposes.
  • Adapting Enterprises: Groups of people that interact with, and adapt, the product of the originating enterprises by reshaping them for their own needs.

At this point, I’m describing the shift that’s been underway for several years now (more prominently now than in the past decade or two). The implications are significant, particularly for today’s businesses that only know control. The weak institution that are unable to adapt and embrace these new behaviors will perish, while those that can adapt will thrive.

What’s particularly interesting about this is that I’ve already addresses an important point that is likely a factor: Everything Old Is New Again. The behaviors driving this emergence of participation by the adapting enterprises are not simply a product of the rapid, technology fueled society in which we live today. Rather, they are ingrained behaviors long present in humanity only being made visible again in recent times.

In the coming weeks I’ll share examples of how this shift is hapening.


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23 Jun 2009
In my previous post, I described the phenomenon of participatory...

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