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By John Hagel, John Seely Brown and Duleesha Kulasooriya:

"Craftspeople, tinkerers, hobbyists, and inventors can all be considered makers. As Chris Anderson puts it, “We are all born makers.” Broadly, a maker is someone who derives identity and meaning from the act of creation. What distinguishes contemporary makers from the inventors and do-it-yourselfers (DIY-ers) of other eras is the incredible power afforded them by modern technologies and a globalized economy, both to connect and learn and as a means of production and distribution. Powerful digital software allows them to design, model, and engineer their creations, while also lowering the learning curve to use industrial-grade tools of production. Makers have access to sophisticated materials and machine parts from all over the globe. Forums, social networks, email lists, and video publishing sites allow them to form communities and ask questions, collaborate, share their results, and iterate to reach new levels of performance. Seed capital from crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter, cheap manufacturing hubs, international shipping, and e-commerce distribution services such as Etsy and Quirky help makers commercialize their creations.

Today’s makers can create hardware capable of exploring the deep ocean, going to space, and solving critical problems that were previously the domain of large, well-funded organizations. They invent new solutions, bring innovations to market, and derive meaningful insights through Citizen Science. They share, inspire, and motivate, and in the process, they are reshaping education, economics, and science. As Ted Hall, CEO of ShopBot Tools, puts it, “The DIY-er is now less of a putterer and more of a player.” (

What is the Maker Identity?

By Austin Toombs, Shaowen Bardzell and Jeffrey Bardzell:

What is "a 'Maker Identity: With this, we refer to a plurality of identifications with the modern maker movement, from people who perform DIY home repair and craft activities, to people who subscribe to Make magazine or regularly peruse and imagine building projects, even if they never do. Our conceptualization of the maker identity is influenced by related characterizations described as the Expert Amateur (Kuznetsov & Paulos 2010), the Everyday Designer (Wakkary & Tanenbaum 2009), Makers (Anderson, 2012), and Hackers (Levy, 2010). Each of these identities describes people who build things for themselves, sometimes as part of an anti-consumerism statement, but often for a practical outcome. We view each of these identities as variant formulations of a potential maker identity, which we define throughout this paper as incorporating a collection of attitudes, skills, behaviors, practices, and expressions around DIY activities.

We distinguish the more general maker identity from what we refer to as an “established” maker. Maker-ness manifests in degrees, which range from one who occasionally participates in DIY activities and can consider herself a maker, to one who regularly and actively creates her own situations for DIY activities, who we would consider to be more established." (


John Hagel et al.:

"Dale Dougherty, editor and publisher of Make magazine, first categorized makers into three broad stages: Zero to maker, maker to maker, and maker to market.9 Not all makers will move through all three stages, nor will they want to—the power of the movement is that there are as many end points as there are entry points.

Zero to maker

Every maker has a different starting point. Some have tinkered all their lives, while most are rekindling or discovering a fondness for altering the world around them. The journey begins with inspiration to invent, the spark that turns an individual from purely consuming products to having a hand in actually making them. The inspiration can come from anywhere, from imagining a new approach to an everyday task (such as separating an egg yolk) to immersion in a new environment such as Maker Faire. To go from zero to maker, the two most important aspects are the ability to learn the required skills and access to the necessary means of production. Knowing that others have done it makes it easier to take this step. What renders making less daunting is easier access to sources of inspiration and learning. Such sources have proliferated as a result of digitization and increasingly cheaper tools of production. Makers can more easily access stores of information—both in physical settings such as local workshops and in virtual settings such as online community portals—to fill gaps in knowledge and capabilities. Moreover, people can now access otherwise cost-prohibitive tools through sharing communities and hacker spaces, such as TechShop, Artisan’s Asylum, and Fab Lab Barcelona, as well as spaces created by libraries, universities, and even museums. The transfer of knowledge from the expert to the novice inspires more people to become involved and move from zero to maker.

Maker to maker

The distinction in this stage is that makers begin to collaborate and access the expertise of others, whether by formally building teams around projects or by simply asking for help from others who are willing to share their experience. At this stage, makers also contribute to existing platforms. Here, too, powerful undercurrents are at work, both from technological revolution as well as unleashing the innate desire for self-expression and creation.

Historically, makers tended to connect in small communities limited by interest and geography, which were neither accessible to outsiders nor welcoming to newbies. The advent of the Internet changed that. Communities can now connect and share passions without limitation of distance, and individuals can move among communities rather easily, choosing their level of participation.

The maker community has begun to organize talent pools (for example, in drones and 3-D printing), where a group meets both online and in person to share work—a bit like the original Homebrew Computer Club. Expertise is categorized by interests and projects rather than academic credentials or job titles, and relationships are created ad hoc.

On this portion of the spectrum, makers start to connect with one another through the same virtual and physical platforms that existed to draw people into the movement to begin with. Fragments of knowledge begin to concentrate, while more knowledge is developed in a decentralized fashion as new makers build on the foundation previously established. As makers become a deeper part of and more invested in communities of making like Maker Faire, their journey can branch out into multiple paths to include the discovery of marketplaces or finding better ways to produce their inventions. The desire to improve and share with others catalyzes the move to maker to maker.

Maker to market

From the workshops and the digital communities, a new wave of invention and innovation springs forth. Knowledge flows and concentrates and flows again. Some of the inventions and creations will appeal to a broader audience than the original makers. Some may even find commercial appeal. In this part of the spectrum, makers take deliberate steps to formally introduce their inventions to the commercial part of the spectrum.

It is by no means the destination for all makers. Many will continue to improve on their own inventions without a profit motive. However, even if only a few makers pursue market opportunities, the impact may be huge.

During a recent trip to the electronic markets in Shenzhen, well-known maker bunnie Huang noted, “There are 100 million factory workers in the region. If 1 percent of those factory workers decide to leave factories and begin their own operations, there are one million new specialists. If 1 percent of those specialists decide to develop original creations, then there are 100,000 new inventors. If 1 percent of those inventors find commercial success, then there are suddenly 1,000 new commercially viable products in the marketplace.”

This is where the maker movement collides with the business world. This decision to scale and profit catalyzes the move from maker to market." (

Maker Business Models

John Hagel et al.:

"As the business landscape fragments and consolidates, established firms have to find their place in the fabric. They will want to stay away from the parts of the economic landscape that are fragmenting and focus instead on the parts that are consolidating—which broadly fall into two categories: scale operators and mobilizers (figure 3).

Scale operators provide the physical infrastructure, digital aggregation, and mass-agent capability required to support niche operators. Large physical businesses such as manufacturing, logistics, facilities management, and back-office operations will get even bigger as they support increasingly large and fragmented businesses spanning the globe. Digital aggregation platforms such as social media platforms, online marketplaces, and finance platforms will also grow in size for the same reason. And a new segment of large-scale consumer and talent agents will increase the number of options to both consume and learn.

Mobilizers, from “flash organizations” to open source platforms to “shaping networks,” will connect niche operators with each other and with scale operators.

As the business landscape evolves, so does the rationale for large institutions. With the decreasing cost of activity coordination across independent entities, and the increasing need to continuously learn and evolve, firms exist less for scalable efficiency than for scalable learning.

The maker movement provides a few possible avenues for building agile, nimble learning organizations that scale." (

Who Are the Makers ?

Survey of Makers in Italy

By Massimo Menichinelli, Massimo Bianchini, Alessandra Carosi, et al

"First of all, the age of Makers ranges from 21 and 60 years old but the majority of them is between 30 and 40 years old, with a peak at 36 years (Fig. 1). The age of Italian Makers falls mainly in the range of the working age, showing how the identity of Makers could be linked to work. The majority of the participants lives with her/his partner (30.5%) and children (21.6%); less than 15% live alone or with her/his parents. Furthermore then, the Italian Maker scene is mostly composed by adults who have a family. Regarding their gender, 72.4% of them self-identifies as male, 23.4% as female and 3.7% prefers not to reply to the question.

Italian Makers are mostly highly educated and able to relate with international subjects: 88.8% of the participants speak English, 44.7% has a Master degree, 13.4% affirms to have a Bachelor degree and just 17.1% obtained only a high school diploma. The fields of specialisation of Italian Makers are mainly related to industrial design, architecture and engineering (i.e., mechanics, informatics and electronics); confirming, therefore, the identity of Italian Makers as based on the integration of both creative and technical skills related to project development.

We then investigated the role of making in the economic and working conditions of participants: Making is mainly considered a secondary or complementary activity for the majority of the sample (54.4%). It is interesting to highlight that only 26.1% of the subjects consider it as a primary activity, while for 19.4% of the interviewed it is just a hobby. Therefore, making is not just an amateur activity for participants but it consists of a sort of serious profession in the principal working period of subjects’ life, even if only to a partial extent. In particular, as making is not considered the main activity of Italian makers, their principal occupation has been analysed. The majority of the sample (31.3%) declares to be mainly working as freelancers, while 10.3% are entrepreneurs and 19% are employed and just 6.7% are students. It can be stated that, in respect to the typology of work, the Italian Maker community is mainly composed by professionals who work in an independent and autonomous way, without being part of established companies (Fig. 2) Interestingly, 21.6% of them did not reply to the question (this is the most common value after being a freelancer), showing how working conditions might be unclear, a sensitive topic, or not fitting in conventional formats. It should be noted that within another survey about Maker Laboratories in Italy (Menichinelli and Ranellucci, 2015), a similar reaction was found around the topic of budget and business models for Maker Laboratories: here the reaction was even more extreme, with the majority of Maker Laboratories not answering about their budget and business models. The economic and work dimensions of Makers and Maker Laboratories in Italy is, therefore, either still emergent and underdeveloped, a critical and sensitive topic, or a dimension that Makers and Maker Laboratories are not aware of.

Referring more specifically to formal working conditions (eg, work contracts), a third of subjects (31.3%) works as freelancers (with or without VAT), while 17.1% have open-ended contracts and 5.2% fixed-term contracts, showing that making is mainly an independent and autonomous activity. Interestingly, 16.4% of the subjects mentioned other working conditions; however, when analysed in depth, they show that a further 7.4% of subjects have self-employed positions (9% are entrepreneurs then), bringing us to a 38.7% of subjects that are self-employed individuals. Therefore, even if making remains an emerging phenomenon, it can be considered as a new way of working professionally and not just a hobby. On one side, there are entrepreneurs and professionals of self-production and making, and, on the other, individuals who deal with making as a supplementary activity, maintaining another principal job. We also investigated the sustainability of the yearly income of Makers: the majority of participants (36.5%) earns between 10,000 and 25,000 €, while only 10.4% of the subjects have no income at all, and 23.1% earn between 0 and 10,000 €. On the higher end, 17.1% earn between 25,000 and 50,000 € (Fig. 3). The Italian average per capita income is 20,678 € (Cnel and Istat, 2014): The majority of Makers earns less or a bit more than the national average.

Furthermore, when it comes to defining the percentage of earnings directly deriving from making activities and self-production, a huge percentage of people did not answer (Fig. 4) showing how little impact making has on income or how Makers have a low awareness of such impact, or how sensitive this question could be. Among the ones who answered, making has been confirmed as a secondary activity: for 31.1% of the subjects, it contributes just in a minimum part of their salary (from 0% to 30% of the total income). A smaller group of people (9.5% of the sample) earns between 40% and 70% of their income from it, while just 11.4% of subjects obtain between 80% and 100% of their income from it.

The activity of Italian Makers is mainly focused on producing prototypes (56.7%) and then manufacturing products in small batch runs (47.7%), personalised products (44%) and unique pieces (40.2%). Referring to quantities, 34.3% of the sample concentrates their work on 10 units/year, while 29% works on mini batch runs (18.6% until 50 units, and 10.4% until 100 units). Just 12.6% of subjects declared they produce more than 100 units per year. In relation to the target audience, Makers seem to sell a small amount of products to a wide audience of clients: professionals, private clients, distributors, traditional enterprises, and so on.

Their principal market (26.8%) consists of freelancers, traditional companies (20.1%), artisans (13.4%) and other Makers (13.4%). This data could suggest the existence of particular professional B2C channels, in addition to the classical B2B one. Furthermore, Italian Makers sell their products and services via B2C channels through distributors/traders (19.4%) and private clients (11.19%). There is a notable number of subjects who support Makers’ markets and encourage their activities; 23.1% are composed of friends and relatives, while 6.7% are investors (crowdfunding or venture capitalists). In conclusion, the great majority of Italian Makers mainly rely on their own resources through self-financing (71.6%) and, in a lower amount, through the resources they gain thanks to the sale of their products and services (46.2%). Just a small number of subjects rely on loans and credit (9.7%) or social financing like crowdfunding (8.2%). It can be stated at this stage Italian Makers are characterised by a traditional small business approach, investing enthusiasm and energy within an activity they like, and relying mainly on their personal and private resources.

This data highlights a positive fact: Making activities are starting to provide some supplementary income for the people who undertake them. In some cases, such activities can become a professional opportunity for work: Making is evolving from a hobby activity to a professional job. One of the reasons for this condition could be addressed to the recent origin of this phenomenon in Italy, where making can be still considered a quite recent movement as a whole. Indeed, the majority of Italian Makers (60.4%) have only been involved in making activities for the past five years; 17.9% declares to have been involved making activities for less than a year, while 19.3% has practiced making for more than 5 years. The increasing interest towards making could be then linked to the global spread of the Maker Movement, but also with the Great Recession that took place in the years after 2007: Interest in making could be a consequence of the spreading of the “Maker meme”, but also as a consequence of the need to find new work opportunities in a period of crisis through self-employment. Furthermore, the phenomenon of the Maker in Italy has emerged more recently than in other countries, but it has found a prior “making knowledge” already embedded in historical Italian industrial districts. There is, in fact, an interesting overlap between the territorial concentrations of Italian Makers within historical industrial districts and urban contexts (Fig. 5): 27.5% of the participants lives in urban contexts (20,8% lives in Milan, Rome and Bologna as a whole) but 75 places have been mapped through the whole country. The higher concentration of Makers can be found in North and Central Italy, partially superimposed onto the pre-existing geography of industrial districts. Moreover, many Maker Laboratories and Italian manufacturers of digital fabrication technologies have a strong link with local productive systems. This means that there could be a partial continuity between traditional local production and the emergent working conditions of Makers.

We also investigated to what extent the working conditions of Makers in Italy can be related to peer production. We did not ask a specific question about peer production, but we asked several questions regarding many aspects of peer production: motivation for working, types of projects and approaches, values, participation in online and local communities in Maker Laboratories.

Regarding why people participate in making, the first motivation is the will to experiment (74.6%), followed by an interest in creating a product-service or launching an enterprise (64.9%), and then by an interest in learning (60.4%). However, social aspects like collaboration with other people is an important motivation only for 39.9% of subjects: a relevant percentage, but less than half of the participants are interested in collaboration. The idea of participation in making as an alternative for the capitalistic model of production and consumption of goods is accepted only by half of the participants (50.7%). In a similar way, a little bit less than half of the participants (44%) participate in making because of the possibility of generating a positive impact on their local community. In terms of keyword association, Italian Makers associate the term “making” with several different dimensions (Fig. 6). In first place, they relate it with self-production as an activity (75.3%), followed by Digital Fabrication as technology (52.9%), then with Maker Laboratories as places (61.1%) and DIY as an approach (51.4%). It is interesting to note also the association with the theme of Openness (Open Design, Open Hardware, Open Source Software) (39.5%) and with the Collaboration and Sharing condition (47.1%). Even if the majority of Makers do not associate making with openness, collaboration and sharing of knowledge and goods, a notable amount of participants do and their percentage is relevant. Therefore, it can be stated that collaboration and openness are still emerging ideas in making activities, not fully widespread, but already present and relevant.

At the same time, even if sharing and collaboration are not clearly associated with making, the majority of the participants stated that they are more important than general information, technical knowledge, the organisation of initiatives, places for work and files and resources. Sharing and collaboration, therefore, are not considered to be originating from making, but are the most important traits. More insights about the approach to sharing and collaboration can be gathered from the question where we asked the Makers to choose an approach for their design processes (Fig. 7). While the majority of Makers prefer to start their projects from scratch (79.1%), Tinkering and Open Design follow at almost the same percentage (41.8% and 40.3%, respectively). Co-Design with a community then follows (20.9%) and Generative Design tools and approaches are the last option (9.7%). While Makers may still prefer to work individually, especially while experimenting with the materials at the same time of designing, the Open Design approach is highly relevant here.

We then investigated to which extent Italian Makers participate in an online community or in local laboratories. The majority of them participates in an online community, specifying that they are members of the community (41.8 %) or that they participate while not being a real member (23.8%); 34.3% of them do not participate in an online community of Makers. The size of these online communities are mostly under 50 members (41.8%), but a relevant number of participants (26.8%) did not reply to the question, probably because they are not aware of the size of their community. The activities of these communities that the Makers participates in are also a good sign of the amount of collaboration and sharing (Fig. 8). Makers mostly follow activities passively (55.2%), but also download content (26.8%), and produce and share content (25.3%). While sharing and downloading content are activities with almost the same percentage (but with a higher proportion of unanswered questions compared to the other activities), active participation in working with other members takes place with a much less percentage: 11.2% for both the development of projects or events.

Regarding the participation in a local Maker Laboratory, 53.7% of the participants are active in one of them (even if with different levels of involvement), while 29.8% do not participate because they already own a private laboratory and 16.4% do not participate at all in a laboratory. These laboratories are mostly Fab Labs (35%), craftsmen’s workshops (18.6%) or Makerspaces (5.2%), among others. Here, again, we asked which kinds of activities the Makers were participating in, and generally the participation and collaboration was higher than in online communities (Fig. 9). Inside laboratories, Makers follow activities (22.4%), develop their projects (49.2%) or projects with others (29.8%) or initiatives and events (27.6%). (

Source: Makers as a New Work Condition Between Self-employment and Community Peer-Production: Insights from a survey on Makers in Italy. By Massimo Menichinelli, Massimo Bianchini, Alessandra Carosi, et al. Journal of Peerproduction, Issue #10: Peer Production and Work [1]

More Information

  • Graphics
  1. A map of the maker ecosystem,
  2. Makers in the emerging business ecosystem,
  3. Growth of maker movement,