An offshoot of open-source programming and hacker culture, which extends the scope of hackish-style engineering to material objects. Related to New Crafts, Life Hacking, Urban Homesteading, Steampunk and Sustainability, makers enjoy reverse-engineering old tech, replicating industrial processes at home, robotics, desktop prototyping, electronic crafts, and home chemistry and biotech, sometimes in ways that recall the palmy days of the Whole Earth Catalog, as chronicled in the pages and website of the O'Reilly offshoot, Make. Makers, like hackers, enjoy each others' company at communal workshops --"makerspaces" -- and display their work at "faires".

On one hand, idealistic proponents of the maker movement claim that this may be the future of American (and by extension, African, and even global) industry: small-batch locally produced crowdsourced everything from tomatoes to energy to cars, all drawn together by the almighty Internet. Farewell, Detroit Big 3 automakers, hello, Local Motors, making clever hybrid cars custom-tailored to where their owners will be driving them. Farewell, Chanel and Coach and Tommy Hilfiger, churning out product (designed by other people) nearly indistinguishable from cheap Taiwanese clones, hello, hip girl from Etsy, turning your plastic shopping bags into one-of-a-kind totes with your own personal logo.

On the other, most of the "makers" are affluent tech-savvy dot-com remnants living in California, who can well afford to live off the proceeds of their salad days while making pin money knitting and making kids' toys out of the guts of old telephones while watching chickens scratch in their backyards in a postmodern version of Le Petit Hameau. While DIY utilities might yield enough water and electricity for someone's weekend getaway cottage, there's little evidence that they're anything but a recipe for continued grueling toil and poverty for people from developing countries. (Like the market for alternative medicine here in New Haven and in New York, it's helpful to have a backup world-class hospital handy in case something goes wrong that herbal tea and aligning your chakras can't fix.) It also remains to be seen that local craftspeople can entirely sidestep the almighty Wal- and Kmarts (not to mention Target and IKEA) in supplying everyday necessities like laptops, brassieres for women over 25 and sneakers. On the other hand, there's that tempting pattern for Mexican runners' huraches....very good for the feet, I hear...

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