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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

DIY Movement Gets Government Investments

Reporter Jon Kalish has been covering the “maker” movement, the do-it-yourself scene, for years as it’s expanded into virtually every American city and every avenue of American life.

Kalish joins Here & Now’s Robin Young for a look at some of the latest developments in DIY, including investments from state, county and municipal governments to create “maker spaces” to help spur start-ups.

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  • Jon Kalish, New York-based radio reporter, writer and producer.

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  • Rick

    Sadly, I don’t think the DIY movement is growing. Not from what I see. Products are made to be thrown away, not fixed. Our education system no longer teaches practical skills. The feminization of our society has de-valued mechanical skills that men and boys used to pride themselves on. Go to your local hardware store and tell me who you see. It’s a bunch of old men.

    • N_Jessen

      There may be more than one reason it’s mostly a bunch of old men, like delayed retirements in the aftermath of the great recession. Agreed on the education bit, but the devaluation of mechanical skills (except those for which there’s still a strong domestic market), and the trend toward throw-away assembly line production, is partly traceable to hyper-globalization. Despite a modest resurgence in American manufacturing (more of it high tech), the threat of the “giant sucking sound” lingers.

    • Robert Thomas

      Setting aside the spurious gender characterization of “our society”, your observation mistakenly extends nostalgia for a comparatively brief period to a lament for an imagined past epoch.

      The advent of “hardware stores” at all – essentially ironmongers providing controlled surface and controlled cycle tools (results of the very modern, nineteenth century creation, tool & die making) and affordable, interoperable fittings and fasteners – was considered of an earlier age to be a sign of the degenerate decline not only of master craftsmanship but of homely, self-sufficient smithery.

      I’ve been a manufacturing engineer for over thirty years. I’ve directed operations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Asia and Europe. When I was about nine years old, I “inherited” a copy of Popular Science’s Amateur Craftsman’s Cyclopedia of Things to Make (1937) and it gave me the “maker” bug, reaching out across three decades and through world catastrophe. I’ve never lost the compulsion to build but I have a more realistic understanding of manufacturing than I did in 1968. People today have low appreciation for the all-encompassing way in which post-WWII manufacturing techniques have resulted in their standard of living. Almost the entire wealth of the Western developed world is its result.

      During essentially all of human history until the early twentieth century, light manufactured goods were always very, very dear and human labor was generally very cheap compared to its value today. Not very long after the industrial revolution brought the beginning of modern light manufacturing (the hallmarks of which are common fasteners, replaceable components and the control of form and fit) to venues outside of Europe and North America, two devastating World Wars plunged world manufacturing outside North America into chaos that interrupted inevitable progress elsewhere. The slow recovery of manufacturing in those venues allowed twentieth century American manufacturing to flourish and dominate. It was inevitable that absent new global warfare, capacity in Asia, Latin America and Africa would displace some of that of North America

      Despite this and contrary to the impression people often have that manufacturing in the U.S. has disappeared, the United States typically achieves the greatest per capita industrial production on Earth (among industrialized nations, alternating in this distinction only with Germany).

  • Sal

    I really enjoyed this piece and I coincidentally just produced a very similar story about a Maker space in Southeast Michigan:

    Anyone in the area should check it out! It’s a great place with a great staff to help you with any type of project.

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