Makers: What to Make

In finishing the second half of Chris Anderson’s Makers I’m left wondering what to make of it. Anderson ends the book with an appendix, “The 21st Century Workshop”, with a tagline that reads “How to Become a Digital Maker.” The emphasis is on digital tools – 2 D and 3 D drawing programs, 3 D printing and scanning, laser cutting, CNC machines, and electronics gear (soldering iron, multimeter, and a starter Arduino kit). What I value from it is potential – potential in people viewing themselves as designers/inventors/tinkerers, in curiosity, in attention to materials, in agency (human and nonhuman), in how we conceptualize tools, and in envisioning spaces of opportunity. While my interest as a scholar and teacher is not so much on the emphasis of manufacturing and entrepreneurship, I find value in imagining possibility, and at a different scale, adopting this (maybe my students aren’t making robots that can execute oratory hand gestures of classical rhetors but Twitter bots that re-mediate rhetorical tropes and composition commonplaces we discuss in class).

But this doesn’t feel like it accounts for making well enough – it doesn’t get at rhetorical carpentry (Brown and Rivers) or craft. I sit here now, mind a buzz with the energy that’s typically associated with being onto something – that is to say, the frenzy that comes with working through an idea. Except I don’t know what idea to make, but I find myself gathering materials.

  • OO Frequency: An Object Oriented Media Channel (from Ozone Journal)
  • Two blog posts from Nathaniel Rivers on rhetorical carpentry:

composition, production, distribution, assemblage, circulation, transformation, and consequentiality

  • A blog post from Derek Mueller on reading Ian Bogost’s Alien Phenomenology:

What does this make? These aren’t blueprint or schematic, more inspiration – the bend of that arch, this pattern of embroidery, that emphasis of the natural wood grain. What does it mean to make with materials/objects (digital or not)? Not as hobby, but earnest practice, invention, awareness (mindfulness, or maybe materialness), curiosity, potential.

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