Why This and Not That?

A question for the localist/artisanist/do-it-yourself contingent: How do you feel about Make magazine?

Do you know it? Love it? Proudly subscribe, as I do? Or do you mistrust it as inauthentic and non-traditional? I’m curious, because Make seems to have the entire, fully formed ethos you’re looking for, but it’s technophilic, as I’d insist on. There might be a compromise here.

See, I mildly get the creeps when you talk about (largely mythic) peasant food, or when you extol the virtues of mud huts coated in dung. But if you were talking about Arduinos, and hacking your XBox to make soy smoothies, and Internet-administered organic urban chicken coops with streaming video, well, my little dynamist heart would be gladdened. Make loves technology and the environment. It’s all about do-it-yourself projects and the communities they inspire. Can we, err, make a deal?

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13 thoughts on “Why This and Not That?

  1. I’ve never heard of it, but it looks good. Again, I think I’m on the outside of this argument. My position has always been the magpie ethos- any thing that inspires me intellectually, aesthetically, emotionally, philosophically, or technologically, I’m going to “appropriate” as much as possible, whether it’s a digital code or a mud hut. But that position would seem to embrace free trade and technology, and does in fact, so it’s probably at odds with what you’re arguing against anyway.

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    • @Rufus F.,

      I’m not arguing against anything so much as trying to understand a worldview that’s got some points of similarity to my own as well as some apparently wild divergences. We’re nowhere near arguing in the logical sense, and probably even further removed from public policy.

      Also, I wish the seasteaders well, and I hope they succeed, though I am afraid it’s a longshot.

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      • @Jason Kuznicki,

        If there is actually any disagreement, I think some of it is comes from the implication* that even the most dire forms of peasant food are somehow incompatible with technophilia. It’s doesn’t take naive romanticism to acknowledge that plenty of historically life-or-death matters — nixtamalizing maize, leaching acorns, pickling beets — are also prime examples of technical innovation we can learn from even when we’re lucky enough to have less urgent concerns.

        (*Maybe more of an inference on my part, and thus not justified. Your were, after all, pointing out on the bad parts of peasantry.)

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    • @Rufus F.,

      I should add that I have not sought to argue against free markets, which in principle I adamantly support. Instead, I have tried to sound notes of caution about the extent to which free-market rhetoric simply advances an economic system that is far from free. I am a skeptic, but not an opponent.

      This effort of criticism puts me in danger of being mistaken for another Henry Adams, who once defended protectionism at a dinner party with the man he called “his Satanic free-trade majesty,” John Stuart Mill.

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  2. I love make, but I don’t subscribe to the physical magazine or to the blog’s feed because I’ve never found any of it’s projects to be that useful or particularly practical. On the other hand it’s got a lot of fun stuff in it and I really like it’s “love the machine hate the factory” stance on technology, it’s anti-IP politics, and DIY ethic.

    Even though I would describe myself as part of the “localist/artisanist/do-it-yourself contingent” that doesn’t mean I’m a technophobe. One of my favorite bloggers describes it like this:

    “I love technology! A fungophobe is someone who fears all mushrooms, who assumes they’re all deadly poisonous and isn’t interested in learning about them. A fungophile is someone who is intensely interested in mushrooms, who reads about them, samples them, and learns which ones are poisonous, which ones taste good, which ones are medicinal and for what, which ones are allied to which trees or plants or animals. This is precisely my attitude toward technology. I am a technophile!”

    “Now, what would you call someone who runs through the woods indiscriminately eating every mushroom, because they believe “mushrooms are neutral,” so there are no bad ones and it’s OK to use any of them as long as it’s for good uses like eating and not bad uses like conking someone over the head? You would call this person dangerously stupid. But this is almost the modern attitude toward “technology.” Actually it’s even worse. Because of the core values of civilization, that conquest and control and forceful transformation are good, because civilization “grows” by dominating and exploiting and killing, and by numbing its members to the perspectives of their victims, it has been choosing and developing the most poisonous technologies, and ignoring or excluding tools allied to awareness, aliveness, and equal participation in power. It’s as if we’re in a world where the very definition of “mushroom” has been twisted to include little other than death caps and destroying angels and deadly galerinas, and we wonder why health care is so expensive.”
    Ran Prieur

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  3. There are already a lot of hobby magazines and websites that tend to focus on particular technologies – electronics, fine woodworking, needlepoint and so on. Make tries to cover a broad range of technologies, rather than one particular technology in depth. So you might get a project which involves joining wood, but not building an entire desk, or a project which involves adding sensors and LEDs to a skirt, but not an integrated computational shirt. I tend to borrow Make at the library. I like their enthusiasm, but I get the impression that it is a magazine for dilettantes which is probably why I enjoy it.

    (It is also expensive, which is why I borrow it at the library. After all, the projects aren’t exactly today’s news.)

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