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DO-IT-YOURSELFERS are leaving Home Depot in the dust. Ex- ploiting digital design, shared or “open” software and hard- ware, crowd-sourced funding, and small fabrication machinery like 3-D printers, a new generation of inventors hopes to change the landscape of manufacturing. Maker Faires and Makerspaces (one inspiration for the Idea Lab in Skidmore’s planned new integrated-sciences building) are drawing collab- oration-minded innovators together to show and share their home-built electronics and other creations.


Scott Mulligan, a scholar in business and international af- fairs (at right), is exploring how developments like affordable 3-D printing may soon enable almost anyone “to download designs and engage in patent infringement.” Some predict that the Maker movement and traditional industry will soon con- flict the way Napster and the music-record business did around 2001. Mulligan and Ramzy Kahhale ’15 spent the summer re- searching, conducting interviews, and administering surveys on the attitudes behind the open-source philosophy and the Maker movement, as well as the implications for intellectual property rights.


They asked what motivates Makers to create and share, how


they perceive potential competitors that may use patents against them, and whether they’d ever want to assert intellec- tual property rights for their own inventions. They also pon- dered whether intellectual property laws, which are intended in part to protect and therefore stimulate the work of innova- tion, could now be used to stifle the innovation of do-it-your- selfers outside of traditional businesses. Kahhale, a tinkerer himself, enjoyed seeing Makers’ inventions (and their red robot mascots), and he understands how the movement can be “appealing and perhaps revolutionary.” An international studies major who’s considering law school, he says the hard- est part of the summer project was refining their survey word- ing: “It’s tough to craft questions that will give you the exact kinds of answers you want.”


If Makers are dedicated to the ideal of a creative-commons production model that improves on the operations of large- scale, hierarchical organizations, can they still become success- ful entrepreneurs? Mulligan and Kahhale are teasing out some good clues.


12 SCOPE FALL 2014


MR. MAKEY FIGURES COURTESY OF MAKER FAIRE AND SKIDMORE VISION AND HAPTICS LAB


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