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Making Community: The Wider Role of Makerspaces in Public Life

17 December 2015

This paper has been selected for the CHI (computer human interface) 2016 Papers and Notes Program.

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Authors: Nick Taylor, DJCAD, University of Dundee - Ursula Hurley, School of Arts and Media, University of Salford - Philip Connolly, Disability Rights UK

It discusses the role of makerspaces - public workshops where makers can share tools and knowledge – and particularly attempts to consider the wider roles that makerspaces play in public life.

Disability Rights UK is involved in its own In the Making makerspace project, which is helping disabled people to develop commercial, social and creative benefits from new digital fabrication technology.

We are pleased that this paper has been selected for the CHI 2016 Papers and Notes Program, as this is the foremost conference on this subject in the world, reaching the highest levels of the technology sector, including Google, Microsoft, top scientists, researchers, business executives etc.

Aside from this we are pleased that the paper has a significant focus on makerspaces in relation to disabled people.

“Initially, our focus had been on the disabled community and how disabled people might use of makerspaces for their own benefit. While there has been much research focusing on DIY assistive technologies for disabled people …, we sought to understand broader benefits, including wellbeing and entrepreneurship.

However, in surveying existing makerspace usage and outreach activities, we discovered that the potential sources of value to disabled people are in fact sources of value for the wider communities surrounding the facilities.”

Makerspaces have many advantages for disabled people. They have the potential to provide marketable creative skills within a community based social environment, which can meet their own and wider local or national needs.

“This makerspace was able to identify several examples of users who had gained apprenticeships either directly or indirectly through their experience, and was now offering its own apprenticeships. A number of spaces also took on young, unemployed people in work experience roles. This is a trend that was particularly visible in space located in industrial cities and towns where unemployment rates are high.”

Not least they can also promote a sense of wellbeing from working in a makerspace environment.

The paper also considers the sustainability of makerspaces and the barriers that prevent individuals using them.