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The Emergence of Makerspaces, Hackerspaces and Fab Labs: Dewey’s Democratic Communities of the Twenty-first Century?

Dewey and Education in the 21st Century

ISBN: 978-1-78743-626-8, eISBN: 978-1-78743-625-1

Publication date: 5 June 2018


A new form of learning space has emerged across the world, marking a shift from Do-It-Yourself to Do-It-Together. This space, generically known as a makerspace, is located in accessible and affordable venues, both within communities and serving communities. It offers a resource that allows people to discover their latent capabilities through exploration, experimentation and iteration, alongside the knowledge openly shared by those around them. The underlying rationale is found in the work of John Dewey, notably Democracy and Education (D&E, 1916). This chapter examines this newer form of space to gain insight into what it implies for learning and education. It commences with a reflection of salient aspects of Dewey’s D&E (1916) and how this informs understanding on what is desirable in a learning space. This is followed by a reflection upon research on makerspaces to establish how they can be conceptualized. A case study provides rich insights into characteristics, ethos and practices, while acknowledging that each space is unique and not representative of them all. Nevertheless, it foregrounds the essence of what defines a makerspace. The chapter closes with discussion of the implications and what may be concluded.

Whatever has transpired between the publication of Dewey’s D&E (1916) and the present, his vision of the empowered individual clearly manifests in the makerspace. It allows individuals to break free from the limitations of the formal educational system and, as part of a social learning community, discover their potential in new, natural, non-linear and often unexpected ways. Further, and perhaps only just beginning to be understood, is its wider potential to ignite alternative approaches on how to contribute to society and catalysing new directions for the future of work. With increasing research insights alongside broadened awareness of the possibilities, individuals can gain the capability to design and build for their future – that is only limited by their capacity to imagine it.



Eaves, S. and Harwood, S. (2018), "The Emergence of Makerspaces, Hackerspaces and Fab Labs: Dewey’s Democratic Communities of the Twenty-first Century?", Heilbronn, R., Doddington, C. and Higham, R. (Ed.) Dewey and Education in the 21st Century, Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 37-59.



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