or, Why bother with a flat organization?

The university I attend, like many others, has experienced a wave of social activism over the past two years.  After our school’s first demonstration, a sit-in protest back in September of 2014, I wrote and delivered a short critique highlighting something that I found very disturbing:
Openness and transparency were the goals of a campaign that was planned in secret, behind closed doors.

Inclusivity and tolerance were sought by demanding video surveillance (the better to police speech) and
mandated cultural indoctrination for staff, faculty, and students.

As I considered this idea, I began to notice this inconsistency between goals and the methods used to achieve them elsewhere.  It’s there, in the rhetoric, right out in the open.  You can hear it when car dealers manage to outlaw Tesla selling the safest car ever built direct to consumers in the name of consumer protection.  You can see it when Makerbot decided to patent a community design.  It’s there, in the cute “beyond petroleum” BP commercials.

It may have been an insight for me to begin noticing it, but I’m hardly the first to notice it.  In the end, I guess that you can put lipstick on a pig, but when the emperor walks down the street with no clothes on, he’s still naked.  What’s scary is how many people play along.  Neither wanting to endure soul-crushing cognitive dissonance, nor passion-sapping failure, I decided to build an organization that embodied the values it sought to promote.

The point of the Build-Your-Own-3DPrinter Project is well, several things:

  • To spread what I think of as the values of the maker movement, such as freedom of information, open source, collaboration, a preference for decentralization and distribution over centralization and concentration, and so on.
  • To spread what will yet prove to be one of the most transformatively powerful tools ever created by humanity, the personal fabricator (better known as a 3D printer).
  • To find, connect, and build our local community of makers, thinkers, tinkerers, and doers.
  • All of this shifts us, ever so slightly, towards an abundant life.  We already live in an abundant world, but we face terrible challenges in logistics and distribution.  Once we see the world as a hackable, makeable space, we can begin to realize the promise of these creation tools.
  • It will also, hopefully, help shift the educational culture (at least locally) towards something a bit more active.  Less passive reception of lecture, and more passionate quest for knowledge!

Well, we’ve put a team together – roughly 30 people ranging in age from 13-67, with all different sorts.  We’re aligning thought with action, ends with means, and setting up our organization in a way that embodies those ‘maker’ values we are trying to spread.

More to come on the many challenges that entails…



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