Make Magazine

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= the first magazine and media brand devoted entirely to makers and the maker movement and the powerful combination of open source hardware + personal fabrication tools + connected makers



"Open Source Hardware has a loud and passionate following in the hobbyist community. In 2005, O'Reilly Media began publishing Make magazine, a quarterly how-to guide for all sorts of engineering and science projects. Make now has more than 100,000 subscribers and has spawned events known as Maker Faires, which are a cross between souped-up science fairs and high-tech craft shows. Last spring, 65,000 professionals and amateurs flocked to the San Francisco Bay Area Maker Faire to demonstrate projects that ranged from arts and crafts to engineering and science--and many that blurred the boundaries. And as they showed off their creations, attendees also shared ideas and met potential collaborators.

Around the time that Make was getting off the ground, Eric Wilhelm '99, SM '01, PhD '04, launched the Instructables website, which provides a template for step-by-step instructions that lets people document their engineering projects online. Since its users are allowed to comment on other people's projects, Instructables has created a vibrant community of technology enthusiasts who share information on building just about anything--including a computer mouse made from an actual dead mouse, an eight-foot-long match, and biodiesel fuel." (


Make Magazine and the legacy of the Whole Earth Catalog

Sara Tocchetti:

"By being presented at OSCON, the magazine was placed at the center of the vast community of IT professionals gathered around O’Reilly Media. O’Reilly and Associates was founded as an IT consulting firm, in 1978. The Boston-based company’s first success came in 1992 with the publication of The Whole Internet: User’s Guide and Catalog. Its story is narrated in a book entitled Creating Consumer Evangelists (McConnell and Huba, 2003). The authors describe how several months before the book was released, Brian Erwin, founder of the media office of the Sierra Club – the most influential US environmental organization – was hired as director of O’Reilly public relations. Erwin took over the promotion of the book by using the techniques of communication he had developed at the Sierra Club (Young, 2008). In the book a quote from O’Reilly explains:

“While Brian got us to think about activism we were on very fertile ground because we were already seeing ourselves as a voice of a community. We were writing the books for a class of people we knew really well because we were them” (McConnell and Huba, 2003, p.109).

The Whole Internet became the most popular book educating more than one million readers about the revolutionary potential of the Internet. Its success provided O’Reilly and Associates with the financial leverage to become O’Reilly Media. In 2010 the company owned twenty-four percent of what is estimated to be a four-hundred millions dollar market (Chafkin, 2010), selling each year more than one and a half million IT manuals and books worldwide (Hendrikson, 2011). Unsurprisingly the CEO’s biographical traits and the company’s aims are portrayed as identical. On the company website, O’Reilly is described as ‘a chronicler and catalyst of leading-edge development, honing in on the technology trends that really matter and galvanizing their adoption by amplifying “faint signals”from the “alpha geeks”’ (O’Reilly Media Inc. 2012a and 2012b). The book not only symbolizes the entrepreneurial evangelism of O’Reilly Media (O’Reilly Media Inc. 2012b), but also the first expression of the O’Reilly homage to “Steward Brand and crew” (O’Reilly, 2006). In a post published in the O’Reilly Radar [4] to publicize an event co-hosted by Fred Turner and Steward Brand, O’Reilly wrote: “A huge amount of the O’Reilly sensibility, a mix of practicality and idealism, was learned from the Whole Earth Catalog” (O’Reilly, 2006). More importantly in the same post O’Reilly endorses this legacy towards a future: “And of course, the Whole Earth Catalog is one of the wellsprings of the modern DIY movement, for which Make magazine is now carrying the torch” (O’Reilly, 2006). Turner’s analysis of the Catalog as a network forum that “entrepreneurially linking[ed] the countercultural and technological communities” (Turner, 2006, p. 101), is still very useful to understand why O’Reilly proudly designates MAKE as its ardent descendant.

As Turner himself summarizes in the event description:

- “Over forty years, they [Steward Brand and his colleagues] transformed American notions of technology and particularly, of computers. They shaped the defining notions of our digital world, including ‘personal’ computing, virtual community, and the vision of cyberspace as an electronic frontier. [...] And in the process, they transformed the ideals of the generation of 1968 into a deeply optimistic vision of the social potential of digital technologies” (O’Reilly, 2006).

The inscription of MAKE as part of the Catalog legacy is a symbolic move inviting members of the O’Reilly Media community of IT professionals to revisit or discover their relation to information technologies through the Catalog, while at the same time constituting MAKE as a forum to celebrate such legacy." (

Make Magazine and the legacy of the cyberpunk movement

Sara Tocchetti:

"Frauenfelder first became known among members of the cyberpunk subculture as the co-founder, with his wife Clara, of the ‘zine’ [7] bOING bOING. In 1989 he swapped what he describes as an extremely specialized job as a parts engineer, with the hectic world of freelance zine writing and publishing. Frauenfelder recalls that being in charge of the entire production process and creating a space where they could explore and share the “coolest, wackiest stuff” they could think about was at the core of their motivations (Rowe, 2011). bOING bOING pages covered classical zine themes such as self-publication, pirate radio, bizarre forms of worship, cyberpunk literature, LSD, as well as less common themes such as cryptography, nanotechnology, rocketry and software politics. A style that became its manufacturer’s mark and that corroborates O’Neil analysis of the zine as “personal media” (O’Neil, 2004a, p.47). A communication technology obsessed with the expression of extreme and often marginal subjectivities where authors position themselves as an alternative and revelatory information source to mainstream media and its conventional representations (O’Neil, 2004b). In less than four years bOING bOING grew into a zine with a 17 000 copies in distribution. While in 1996, an enlarged bOING bOING editorial team pioneered the Weblog boom by inaugurating a blog with the same name. became and still is one of the blogosphere’s most read blogs (Walker, 2011). The tradition of the zine as a personal medium passed over to its technological descendant.

Meanwhile Frauenfelder continued to develop his career as a freelance writer working for what Turner would define as different stages of techno-libertarian media (Turner, 2006): the Whole Earth Review, Wired, and Wired Online (of which he was the founding editor-in-chief). In 2005 Frauenfelder became Editor in Chief of MAKE. In his last book, entitled Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World, he narrates how this job offer coincided with a second major turning point in his life. In 2003, as the freelance-journalism market in California was hit by the dotcom recession, he and his wife decided to move out from the “over-caffeinated routine of school, work, driving, takeout meals and weekends filled with kiddie birthday parties” life of Los Angeles and landed in Rarotonga, a small island in the South Pacific (Frauenfelder, 2004, p.1). Frauenfelder describes how by backing their bread and picking up coconuts from the garden they also learned “how to slow down and to take more control over the systems that kept us alive and well” (Metzger, 2010). Only four months later they moved back to Los Angeles and their lives resumed to how they had left it. But as Frauenfelder was offered a job at MAKE, he became involved with the maker community, “hanging out with people who do this not just with food but with everything” (Metzger, 2010). He started keeping bees and chickens, made his own yogurt, constructed guitars out of cigar boxes and robots from computer mice (Metzger, 2010). These, as Frauenfelder calls them, “analogue activities” became his way to “unplug” – to “cut through the absurd chaos of modern life and find a path that was simpler, direct and clear” (Frauenfelder, 2004, p. 2).

By becoming MAKE’s Editor in Chief Frauenfelder was offered the possibility to network BoingBoing readership and techno-libertarian editorial style with O’Reilly Media community of IT professionals. More importantly Mark helped framing ‘analogue activities’ as tools to ‘unplug’ from the speed of hyper-digital societies and the alienation of perpetual informational connection. What Sarah Franklin has named a “back-to-the-tool” [8] experience is a contemporary rewrite of the escape from the hundredth backlash of the techno-utopian search for emancipation as it is felt by an increasing portion of funders and inhabitants of the digital generation [9]. This first snapshot captures the maker as a complex and composite figuration. Following Leo Spitzer’s proposition, “the linguistic creation is always significant, and one must say, conscious” (Spitzer, 1970, p.51). To paraphrase him, in the history of its linguistic creation one can find the cultural and psychological diagnostic of a social group at work (Spitzer, 1970, p.52). Each in their specific way, O’Reilly, Dougherty, and Fraunfelder have entrepreneurially networked the implosion of carefully chosen “semiotic-material fields” (Haraway, 2007, pp. 190). Namely, the Whole Earth Catalog legacy, the spectacle of the grassroots American innovation, and a digital generation in search of unplugged socialities.

MAKE magazine as a contemporary version of the network forum is an information technology (Turner, 2006). A scaffolding from which the myth of the maker can be told and contributed to. Maker Faires become one of the main homes of the maker, a forum of manufacturing, where its embodiment is performed to re-discover forms of unplugged collectivities. As in MAKE the term maker is used as a synonym for: tinker, hacker, geek, technologist enthusiast, crafter, citizen scientist, amateur, innovator, and fabber; the synchronic extension of maker figuration works as a semantic umbrella, a linguistic term used here to designate the network of relationships and processes that converge in the maker. By extension, the diachronic depth of the maker builds on the ontological power of the conservative myth of “American grassroots innovation” as a recent chapter in the cultural history of manufacturing [10]. More broadly, MAKE and Maker Faires are tools and the product of a curatorial practice. The evangelical role of O’Reilly Media, similarly to the applied conservation biology of the Sierra Club, is designed to curate makers communications and gatherings as natural and national resources of innovation. By catalyzing the implosion of hobby and innovation, spare time and work time, the maker embraces the entrepreneurial responsibility of transforming his house in a business incubator." (

More Information

  1. Maker Movement
  2. Twitter: @make