Final Thoughts Before the Buzzer

Reflection prompt: What was the most interesting thing you learned from a class colleague this semester? How did it
change your perspective? Was the content of this course what you were expecting it to be? What would you like to have spent more time learning? Less time focusing on? What was your favorite project or reading you worked on this semester? If you had to eliminate a project or reading, what would it be?

It’s hard to believe this class is nearly over! We covered so much in terms of readings and discussions and projects, it seems like a whirlwind looking back. I can’t pick a single thing as the most interesting or most important. I learned so much from just reading people’s blog posts and conversing on the discussion boards. Sometimes I would have light bulb moments; sometimes I would have the exact same impressions as someone else after reading something; sometimes I would have a completely opposite reaction or interpretation to something. If I had to narrow it down, I would have to say my impressions have changed about the purpose of makerspaces and about creating innovative and participatory spaces in libraries and other cultural institutions in general. Perhaps very naively, I initially thought the arguments were mostly “pro-makerspace” because they were trendy and/or cool and/or it was obvious that people wanted them… and didn’t realize the nuances involved in the conceptualization, planning, implementation, maintenance and evaluation — not to mention the political complexities — of the spaces. I remember reading, I think in Nina Simon’s The Participatory Museum, about how the point of a participatory space isn’t just to make something fun or something people will like or something that will be good enough to gather responses for some ambiguous use later — it should be about capturing what visitors can offer that the institution itself cannot and supporting/enhancing new kinds of learning. Makerspaces shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all; they should be created specifically with the particular community’s needs in mind. Now, I feel like I have a much better understanding of how complex this whole issue can be, as well as a better understanding of the pros and cons on both sides of the argument. I find that I am still, of course “pro-makerspace” but have a more mature view, perhaps.

The content of the course was mostly what I was expecting. I had just finished another version of 287 (The Hyperlinked Library) and we had some discussions about makerspaces (and The Idea Box!); in fact, that was part of the reason why I took this class. I was expecting a similar format, in terms of types of readings, writing regular blog posts, etc.  I love real-life examples (e.g., Chicago’s YOUmedia) so I enjoyed reading about actual participatory spaces and would love to have more of this in the class. Some of the early foundational readings were really great to introduce essential/key concepts (e.g., Ito’s Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out) but some of the details were a bit dated. I think this is probably somewhat unavoidable, however, as technology and the way we use it changes so quickly.

My favorite project I worked on this semester was probably the Maker Faire or the museum visit; hard to pick a favorite reading but it was probably The Participatory Museum by Nina Simon (linked in the the first paragraph) or Why I Am Not A Maker by Debbie Chachra. The basic ideas in that piece came up so often for me as I explored the connections between maker culture and gender, something I hadn’t really considered before taking this class. The intersection of those concepts is one that I’m excited to continue to learn more about after this semester ends. I wasn’t as interested in the content that seemed to come from a business orientation, although I recognize that it is important to understand these perspectives when analyzing the possibilities for creating makerspaces. If I had to eliminate a reading or project, I would probably pick something that fell into that domain. Overall, I’m glad I took this class and had the opportunity to learn more about participatory culture and innovative learning in libraries and other cultural institutions.


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