Makers as a new work condition between self-employment and community peer-production. Insights from a survey on Makers in Italy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Researchers

Research units

  • Fondazione Make in Italy CDB
  • IAAC | Fab City Research Lab
  • Polytechnic University of Milan

Abstract

Peer production has emerged as a new and relevant way of organising the work of distributed and autonomous individuals in the production and distribution of digital content. Increasingly, the adoption of peer production is taking place not only in the development of digital and immaterial content, but also in the design, manufacturing and distribution of physical goods. Furthermore, Open Design and Open Hardware projects are developed, discussed, manufactured and distributed thanks to digital fabrication technologies, digital communication technologies, advanced funding initiatives (like crowdfunding platforms and hardware incubators) and globally integrated supply chains. This new systemic dimension of work is possible, among other factors, thanks to local facilities like Fab Labs, Makerspaces and Hackerspaces (that can be generally called Maker laboratories), where individuals can gather and form communities with other people, designing and manufacturing together. Generally, these people are referred to as Makers and, while their existence is still an emergent phenomenon, it is widely acknowledged that they could exemplify a new modality of work. We investigated the knowledge, values and working dimensions of Makers in Italy with the Makers' Inquiry, a survey that focused on Makers, Indie Designers and managers of Maker laboratories. This research generated a first overview of the phenomenon in Italy, improving the knowledge of the profiles of Makers; an important step because Makers are usually defined in a very broad way. Furthermore, we investigated their profiles regarding their values and motivations, in order to understand how much Makers engage in peer production or in traditional businesses and whether their working condition is sustainable or not. Finally, we compared these profiles with data regarding traditional designers and businesses and the national context. Given the recent nature of the Maker movement, the focus of this article is on providing a first overview of the phenomenon in Italy with an exploratory analysis and with comparison with existing related literature or national data, rather than contextualising the Maker movement in sociological and political contributions. Far from happening in a void, Italian Makers have a strong relationship with their localities and established industry. Therefore, this is a recent evolution, where Makers work with a broader palette of projects and strategies: With both non-commercial and commercial activities, both peer production and traditional approaches. The activity of making is still a secondary working activity that partially covers the Makers’ income, who are mostly self-employed working at home, in a craft workshop or in a Fab Lab in self-funded or non-commercial initiatives, where technology is not the only critical issue. As a conclusion, we identified current patterns in the working condition of Italian Makers. The data gathered shows some interesting information that, however, could be applicable only to an Italian context. Nevertheless, the survey could be a starting point to compare the same phenomenon in different countries. Therefore, we released the survey files, software and data as open source in order to facilitate the adoption, modification, verification and replication of the survey.

Details

Original languageEnglish
JournalTHE JOURNAL OF PEER PRODUCTION
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

ID: 13518890