Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab
Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab

Response #2

Power, Access, Status: The Discourse of Race, Gender, and Class in the Maker Movement

            I think what needs to be done first, before even trying to shift the conversation away from one about needs and problems to one of assets and opportunities is to address the misconceptions. I don’t know much about the ‘Maker Space’ in general, but the article firstly points out that it’s seen as being inclusive and open. Taking from an early article I read, I think it’s important for the movement to be self-aware and understand that it’s born out of a place of privilege and sometimes, exclusivity. I think while making knows no boundaries, who qualifies as “Maker” definitely does. The article even states “only certain types of Making are truly considered as part of the culture”. I think one of the biggest disparities is definitely in classes. Making has to include a certain level of non-necessity, whereas if you make because your livelihood depends on it, you’re excluded from the movement.

            It’s important that these conversations surrounding inclusion are taking place. So many businesses and organizations often focus on diversity without paying much attention to “inclusion”. Just because you invite different people to a space, doesn’t mean that they are being made to feel welcome or even like they belong. I watched a TED talk recently that discussed this very issue. Janet Stovall makes the point that organizations need to be single-minded if they want to overcome issues as big as these. While her talk is primarily about race, her methods can be applied to class, gender, and any other characteristics that make individuals different. Stovall suggests that we address real problems, use real numbers, and enforce real consequences. She says that “diversity is a numbers game. Inclusion is about impact. Companies can mandate diversity, but they have to cultivate inclusion”. She points out that research shows that it takes 30% of critical mass for minorities to feel that their voices are actually heard.

            It’s these kinds of numbers that the Maker Space needs to work on, not how many “opportunities” there are for women. They need to set goals that are impactful and set deadlines to achieve them and have a fire lit beneath them, with consequences for failure. I think saying that women are the problem, or that minorities are the problem is a form of deflection. And I think that the Maker Space is just another example of companies not addressing the important numbers, while also ignoring the context of its conception, and the exclusivity of its semantics.