Weaving the threads of makers culture
Creative Mornings 08 brought Twitter’s Sylvain Carle back on a Montreal stage, a year and a half after the much praised serial entrepreneur left Montreal for the warmth and excitement of San Francisco. On the ideas surrounding the theme — « make » —, Sylvain Carle chose to focus on the figure of the « maker » — in French, artisan — and the ideas, concepts and myths surrounding this important persona and his contribution to the foundations of creative societies.
If some contemporary troublemakers are given hyperbolic titles like Antichrist, Sylvain Carle is rather the incarnation of what Nassim Nicholab Taleb would call « the Antifragile ». Taleb does so, in his latest book, as well as in issue number one of Montreal’s most splendid beau livre, The Alpine Review : the antifragile is to fragility what positive is to negative. It is not robust or resilient, but improves as it is shaken.
The weaving begins with a metaphor, that of the « ceinture fléchée » — literally, a weaved belt — a typical historical québécois artefact which is, according to Carle, the first « programmatic, coded element » to enter our shared history. This belt calls for a large number of different color pieces of wool to come together in order to create an object in which it is difficult to recognize a single one. Just like the founding myths of our societies, they form a whole that is larger than the sum of its parts.
Trusting the artisan with the weaving of the social fabric is an interesting perspective: « its not about ideas, its about making things happen ». The artisan is, in essence, caught in the making. He does little in the way of intellectualizing what happens with his craft ; it simply is, like a matter of intuition, of culture. To make — in French, faire — comes from the latin faber, to produce, to create, to fabricate. Homo faber, is what the maker stands for.
A very interesting parallel can be made between the figure of the artisan and innovators in contemporary businesses. In his now famous « Hackweek Rant », Sylvain Carle posits that innovation is not something we should be giving so much thought to. The « wannabe-ism » of corporations, their « cheap replicas of real hacker culture and ethics » are a lot of talk, yet do little in the way of real change.
The operating system of society
Innovation is not something you should be thinking about so much, but rather comes as the result of incessant tinkering and playing. The way computers were brought to the Homebrew Club back in the days when IBM’s CEO is quoted to having said there was a market for maybe 15 computers worldwide… or the initial setup of ARPANET which set the foundation for a decentralized, peer-to-peer network without its founders ever having envisioned that this would sway entire countries and undermine government, are examples of what happens when makers are left to make. They create maps, wrong ones, approximate ones, but at least they have something.
Artisans build new models that make no sense within the existing state of affairs, yet these new models are the ones to prevail in the end : « you never change something by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete » wrote Buckminster Fuller. The world, people, things, need to be hacked. The world longs for more hackers. And the premiere institution for hacking should be our culture.
If « culture is the operating system of society », then its code must be unveiled, freed, cracked, and with Sylvain Carle, Seb Paquet, and many others, must be hacked. That way, we can do, make, create, and « re-code » ourselves to better ends.