A New Player for Tackling Inequalities? Framing the Social Value and Impact of the Maker Movement

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

A New Player for Tackling Inequalities? Framing the Social Value and Impact of the Maker Movement


  • Elisabeth Unterfrauner Centre for Social Innovation, Austria
  • Margit Hofer Centre for Social Innovation, Austria
  • Bastian Pelka Social Research Centre, TU Dortmund, Germany
  • Marthe Zirngiebl Social Research Centre, TU Dortmund, Germany


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Abstract:  The Maker Movement has raised great expectations towards its potential for tackling social inequalities by mediating technology-related skills to everybody. Are maker spaces new players for social inclusion in digital societies? How can this potential impact be framed? While scientific discourse has so far identified broad value and impact dimensions of the Maker Movement, this article adds empirical insight into the potential for tackling social inequalities. The study is based on 39 interviews with makers and managers of maker initiatives and ten self-reporting surveys filled in by maker initiative managers throughout Europe, which have been analyzed qualitatively. We found four main domains in which makers address social inclusion: First, by mediating skills and competences not only in the field of digital technologies but in the broader sense of empowering people to “make” solutions for encountered problems. Second, we found that makers actively strive to provide democratized access to digital fabrication and the knowledge on how to use them. Third and fourth, we found different ambitions articulated by makers to change society and social practices towards a society providing better opportunities for individuals. As an entry point for further research and actions, we derived a maker typology that reflects the diverse and various types of relationships to be found in the maker community. This typology could be used for exploring further collaborations between social actors and the Maker Movement. We conclude with an outlook on potential trajectories of the Maker Movement and specify which could influence the inclusion of marginalized persons.

Keywords:  Maker Movement; maker space; social impact; social inclusion; social inequalities

Published:   14 May 2020


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v8i2.2590


© Elisabeth Unterfrauner, Margit Hofer, Bastian Pelka, Marthe Zirngiebl. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.