Thursday, June 26, 2014

Stepping Into The Past Or The Future...

In an underground basement mall near us there used to be a Safeway. A small one. It catered to the residents of the large apartment buildings above it.

Then somebody opened a huge Harris Teeter five blocks away. The Safeway went out of business. This was years ago, and since then its space has stood vacant. The landlords have simply not been able to lease it.

Today I had to go to the doctor's (don't worry, it's nothing serious, just annoying...I managed to get bitten by a horse fly and it now seems to be infected. Sigh). I cut through that mall from the Metro station to the pharmacist to pick up pills...and the space was leased. Which registered as I was walking past.

"Wait a minute, why are there computer desks in the old Safeway."

Stop. Look.

"What's that in the...what...no, it can't be."

I backtracked rapidly to the entrance, which proudly displayed several copies of The Maker Movement Manifesto.

"It is!"

A full featured, commercial grade makerspace. Right in the middle of a mall, under an apartment building (well, where better to put it than a place with a lot of people who don't have garages). But right there where people who have never heard of the maker movement - which is most people - will stumble across it.

I had missed the developments leading up to this - the company started on the west coast (surprise, surprise) and now has public makerspace locations in multiple cities. In the true spirit, it's members only (and membership is pricy, although really quite reasonable for what you get - between $1500 and $1600 a year including classes and stuff).

But this sort of thing may lead to the tipping point. Because when people see these things, right there, where they can get to them, they start trying them.

And if enough people try it, you start to get deindustrialization and major changes in the balance of power. Karl Marx said that the means of production needed to be in the hands of the people - the vision that was twisted into Communism because what people saw was the people controlling the factory, the state representing the people...and led to the state controlling the people.

But this is about the means of production in the hands, garage, and storefront of the people. And I find this both exciting and terrifying.