We’ve always been a nation of inventors, tinkerers and hobbyists. But somewhere along the line the nerds from shop class became technology gillionaires, Gen Xers made “crafting” a verb to be proud of, and the internet gave everyone a platform for sharing ideas, creating new businesses and generally cool stuff.
I have to believe that this movement is, in part, a consumer response to the structure of our economy. We have become a service economy– 90% by most estimates—and some economists and politicians believe that such an imbalance between service and manufacturing is not sustainable. Basically we don’t make things anymore. I believe it’s in our nature to do, invent, and create and consumers are taking things into their own hands, literally, and making things. Sometimes it’s just for fun, sometimes to compete, sometimes to contribute, sometimes to make money.
This confluence of technology, the recession, and cultural shifts has answered the call for some fundamental consumer values. Businesses (craft and hobby is a $30 billion industry), magazines, conferences, and events are all feeling the benefit.
Panoramix view of the system:
• Crafters, scrapbookers, quilters and more are responding to the desire to create, shape, design, and many indulge their passion as part of a group that gathers to share knowledge and the very experience
• “Makers” are the new DIYers and some see potential to change the very nature of manufacturing
• Innovation, empowerment, and community are the motivation behind crowd sourcing, wiki everything, open source as the go-to-tool for innovation
• Collaboration and sharing are driving the Creative Commons designation and space-sharing/knowledge-sharing collaboratives
• Collaborative Consumption is aided by technology but driven by the desire to save—money, resources, and the environment
• From DIY solar panels to home rain gardens consumers are demonstrating their commitment to the environment and the health of the planet
• Control is foremost here as consumers look to take the reins, changing lives that seem out of control.
• Modern day Victory Gardens to home sewing projects are giving consumers a sense that they can do it themselves.
• Technology gave the connectivity, access, and power to those at the center of the grassroots Arab Spring revolution
• The government has enlisted the help of hackers, and gamers have trained soldiers. But in a new twist the Office of Naval Research has created MMOWGLI to help deal with pirates. This Massive Multiplayer Online WarGame Leveraging the Internet has been swamped with crowd sourcing applicants to be part of scenario development to secure the seas.