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Zero to Make by David Lang

Zero to Make by David Lang

Author:David Lang
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9781680453386
Published: 2017-10-15T04:00:00+00:00


Craftsmanship Reimagined

Even though the past is still with us (and still valuable), that doesn’t mean that only traditional methods hold the mark of craftsmanship. I came to realize the concept was much broader. It didn’t necessarily equate to age or have to involve a specific method or technique. More than that, it was an ethic, a way of approaching the work.

In the moments of technological transition, when the boundaries between manual and mechanized labor begin to blur or change, an uneasy tension develops. Whenever machines start doing our “jobs,” a group of people revert to nostalgia for days and ways gone by, whereas others start tinkering with new opportunities, searching for a new maker aesthetic. The futurist Paul Saffo calls this the divide between the Druids and the Engineers (edge.org/response-detail/23858). It’s something I’ve struggled with myself as I met the torchbearers of traditional skills while at the same time reveling in the immediate feedback of the newer tools.

And the divide is nothing new. In American Genesis (University Of Chicago Press, 2004), Thomas Hughes’s account of technological innovation’s effect on American culture around the turn of the twentieth century, he describes the dynamic perspectives and outcomes from the previous industrial revolution:

With the rise of factory production and the displacement of human skills by machine, numerous social critics lamented the passing of the era of the craftsman. In England, William Morris celebrated the joy of work and called for the recovery of medieval crafts…. But in the industrial era tool users were giving way to machine tenders. Still, in the model rooms, laboratories, and machine shops used by independent inventors, craftsmen of a conspicuous skill thrived. Kruesi, with an intuitive grasp of Edison’s three-dimensional concepts, presided over the machine shop at Menlo Park. He transformed a quick sketch of Edison’s into the first phonograph…. Sperry attributed his company’s success in manufacturing the precision gyroscopic devices to the skill of his machinists, many of them Swiss.

My nostalgic sympathizing with the Tin Man (and many others) about the decline in skilled machinists and my own lack of manual literacy seemed eerily similar to the tone of William Morris. But looking back, even the skilled machinists once seemed a distasteful transition from what was considered good and fulfilling work. Similarly, the migration to the digital fabrication tools doesn’t spell the end of craftsmanship—rather an adaptation of it, driven by swaths of opportunity that the capital-intensive factory production model can’t serve efficiently.

If anything, the current trends of workmanship are pointing toward a more human-scale marketplace, a throwback to the small, local, and personal artisans and makers that existed before the factory production model took over. As people gain access to the powerful new tools of desktop prototyping and production, they are making everything they can imagine. And the new tools of distribution, fueled by the Internet and online communities like Etsy and Kickstarter, have made it easier than ever to connect and find a community of people to sell and share their wares.

Chris Anderson, the wisest



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