Posted by: Nancy | April 16, 2011

Makers and Communicators


Why should professional communicators care about the Maker Movement? The question came up at a field trip last week to Kansas City’s Hacker Space, the Cowtown Computer Congress. A group of communicators with a common interest in technology went to visit and mingle with makers.

We met an amazing group — a physicist working on a perception device; a robotics team, just back from creating a new molded item for their project, which is entered in a San Francisco robotics competition; a programmer coding furiously between his laptop and mobile device; a handful of guys turning 3D images into real things with their 3D printers … plus a backroom full of tools and equipment. There were saws, lathes and high-tech woodworking tools on one side, computers and servers and videos and spare parts, even marshmallow machine guns. Oh man, what fun! 

But Makers? Why should communicators care?

I think Darwin knew: It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.

We’re in the midst of a revolution. Every facet of society is changing, some more dramatically than others. Including the way we communicate. We are making these changes with our technology, our creativity, our new ways of interacting. We communicators need to adapt if we want to be relevant.

What’s changing? Don’t we still use words, sentences, stories? Even those are changing as a result of the influence of technology on society.

  • Words: Oxford English dictionary now includes FYI, LOL and OMG. Worse even, it calls them “initialisms.” Oh, and they also included the heart symbol. ♥ 
  • Sentences: Short has always been popular, from cablese to the old Kansas City Star style guide of 1917 (“Use short sentences. Use short first paragraphs. Use vigorous English. Be positive, not negative.“) While emailing, texting and tweeting may have roots in cablese, it’s a new generation of ways of succinct expression. 
  • Stories: Storytelling is changing. Multimedia, multiplatform, multiplayer, interactive, collaborative and integrated. “Once upon a time…” is still an essentially human act, but the human connections can happen in many more ways now. See this South-by report from MediaShift.

So, we have to adapt. And that means using new tools, new technologies, inventing the new best practices in our craft. Personally, I think it helps to look ahead and for that, I like to talk with people who like to invent things. 

Maybe it’s just a personal conceit, but I like to think of myself as a communicator and a maker, too.

I think words can count as tools, and I think the product of our craft can be both tangible and evanescent.

And just maybe, it’s the intangible things we make — connections, words to hearts and minds — that are the most meaningful. Maybe the physical incarnation of these things (like books, DVDs, magazines, newsletters, videos) are the more temporary.

Come to the Kansas City Maker Faire.


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