Cory Doctorow: “Making is a networked practice”

Cory Doctorow - Bits of Freedom

Bits of Freedom, the Dutch digital rights organization, invited Cory Doctorow to talk about his new book Makers. The book, licensed under a Creative Commons license, can be downloaded for free from his website in various formats. Doctorow started with reading a passage from Makers that described the scene of repurposing toys filled with useful mechanics.


When comparing invention and assembly Cory Doctorow notes that there is currently more invention through assembly than there are actual new inventions. Assembling new things from old items addresses the question of how to make items mercifully go back into the chain when they’re discarded? Spimes, a term coined by Bruce Sterling, are “precisely located in space and time. They have histories. They are recorded, tracked, inventoried, and always associated with a story.” (Sterling) Spimes are lurking until they are instantiated but are able to tell us the story behind the discarded objects and the paths they have travelled. We make things that have a duty cycle of only a few years while they are made of materials that last for millions of years.

Cory Doctorow - Bits of FreedomWe are currently suffering from cost disease, a phenomenon where services appear to get more expensive over time. However, manufacturing gets cheaper so much faster than services that the cost of services appears to be rising while they are actually not. On top of that some stuff stubbornly appears not to become cheaper. The fairly new trend of retrofitting – applying old technology to new items- is more popular in Europe than in the US according to Doctorow. Retrofitting changes your relationship to the future, everything that remains will find a new function other than what it was intended for.

Lurking under the surface of the human kind is the desire to shape the environment to fit our needs better. This creates our makery culture. This maker culture is supported by the network which allows us to share content on the web. Instead of dragging people down to your basement to see your collection of ships in bottles, you now post it on the internet and may get feedback from people with the same interest. Making is a networked practice. We need everyone participating in this maker culture to keep on improving things. Besides participating there is a growing need to protect both the makers and the network from legal intellectual property rights enforcement (ACTA) and exploitation.

Thanks to Bits of Freedom for organizing the evening and The Hub Amsterdam for hosting the evening.

More pictures on Flickr.

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