Fascinating discussion of DIY and hacker innovation

Beth’s insights in this field come from studying creativity around technology in the developing world, as well as US hackerspaces, makerspaces, hacker cons, and makerfaires. Extrapolating from both types of sites, she observes three characteristics: – The importance of actual space in bringing communities together
– Systems of apprenticeship or scaffolded learning, including workshops that show people what they need to know to join a community
– Contests and other systems for building reputations, like the “black badges” issued to winners of capture the flag contests at Defcon, or the badges people win on instructables.com She’s interested in the possible overlaps between university research, industry labs and independent researchers. Her goal is not to map the actual Venn diagram of the space, but to understand how independent researchers work in this space. She believes that independent researchers are particularly important for building disruptive technology. Academics have a disincentive to build highly disruptive systems – they’re hard to get academic funding for, and hard for PhD students to pitch dissertations around. It’s hard to disrupt in the corporate community, especially when disruptive tech is cheaper, as those sorts of innovations tend not to fit within existing sales structures. Independent researchers may be immune to these restrictions and especially capable of pushing forward disruptive innovations.

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