The Maker movement and its impact in the fight against COVID-19

Corsini, Lucia 
Dammicco, Valeria 
Bowker-Lonnecker, Lin 
Blythe, Robbie 

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This study is an initial attempt to document the impact of the Maker movement in addressing the spread and prevention of COVID-19. During the early stages of 2020, extreme shortages of critical items led to an unprecedented global mobilisation of grassroots, community-driven Maker projects. The first part of this study reports on efforts to document Maker projects to tackle COVID-19 between March - June 2020. It analyses the characteristics of 158 projects with respect to project type, geographical region, manufacturing technologies and type of actor involved. The second part of the study provides a more detailed perspective of the challenges that Makers faced during this period, by looking at the UK case. It adopts a digital ethnographic approach, analysing a web-seminar organised and hosted by the authors in collaboration with Make:, one of the most widespread online communities of the Maker movement. The web-seminar took the form of a panel talk and discussion with representatives from four prominent COVID-19 Maker projects in the UK. This study reports on several cross-cutting themes that emerged in the panel talk. To maximise the potential impact of the Maker movement in a crisis, the findings call for: the development of a national network of Makers in the UK that is supported by policy and governance; the creation of a centralised database to manage demand and supply of critical items in times of crisis; and advancements to management of distributed quality control. This paper helps to document the impact of the Maker movement during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also underlines the potential impact of the Maker movement in addressing future crises via the development of distributed innovation actors.

Maker Movement, makers, digital fabrication, Covid-19, Pandemic, crisis, grassroots innovation, crisis critical products