“I would define maker culture as an emerging cultural movement that, following the open and sharing spirit of the science Ethos, and using the potential of Internet, has contributed to one of the greatest transfers of knowledge in the history of civilizations.”
Karim Asry is the creative director at Espacio Open, which since 2013 organises Maker Faire Bilbao, and non formal education project for youngsters, Gaztea Tech, board member at the Spanish Network for Digital Creation and Fabrication, Crefab, former journalist at El País and ex open government and transparency advisor for the Presidency of the Basque Regional Government. UPTEC had the chance to meet him and discuss about maker culture and mobility!
Can you introduce yourself? Have you been working as an independent and/or are you involved in cultural/maker organizations? When did you start and why?
Karim Asry: Espacio Open, the organiser of Maker Faire in Bilbao (Spain) since 2013, is a creative projects accelerator that transformed an old Cookie Factory in a large scale Makerspace that mixes maker culture with social projects, traditional industries and contemporary culture. Before joining Espacio Open, I was mainly a correspondent for Spanish newspaper El País in the Basque Country region. My first contact with open source and its true transformation potential was as advisor on Transparency and Open Government for the Presidency of the Basque regional Governement.
“As a journalist I saw how the digital revolution completely disrupted the organisation model of a newsroom, and I felt compelled to join a part of society where the social impact of this digital transformation would be positive. I found this in the maker world.”
Maker Faire Bilbao 2019
Where do you situate your “maker” practice? And how do you define what is known as “maker culture”?
Karim Asry: I had to learn almost everything from scratch. I was the typical word person that would think that science and technology were unattainable, some kind of witchcraft that a person with a humanities education could not understand. In the Making and rebuilding of our Cookie Factory, I learned how to use power tools, how to use 3D printers and digital fabrication machines and suddenly I was hooked with the immense source of intellectual satisfaction that came with understanding how things work around us and how we can modify them.
I would define maker culture as an emerging cultural movement that, following the open and sharing spirit of the science Ethos, and using the potential of Internet, has contributed to one of the greatest transfers of knowledge in the history of civilizations. Thanks to open source, hacker, maker, new media arts and DIY communities, the transfer of technological knowledge nowadays doesn’t go trough only through the traditional gatekeepers (university, companies, governments), but can also flow trough informal online and offline communities that share tools, knowledge and expertise to make almost anything.
Have you participated in mobility programs in the past (formal and informal)? Can you elaborate on your experience(s)?
Karim Asry: We have a residency programme for makers and artist that acts as a strong tool for transfer of knowledge, skills and expertise to connect the global ecosystem with our local context in Spain. We’ve also hosted and taugh DIY workshops, as well as organising Maker Faire Bilbao since 2013.
What were your favorite contexts when you participated in mobility schemes in Europe or Internationally? Workshops? Symposia? Training? Residencies? Informal collaborations?
Karim Asry: All the mentionned formats work well, but the key issue is choosing the right persons.
What have you been missing to better develop your creative practice? Were your international activities/ projects ever funded by mobility schemes (or other programs, such as support to creation or training covering mobility expenses)? If so, do you see loopholes in mobility programs regarding maker practices and culture?
Karim Asry: I think mobility programmes should try to find ways to ensure long term collaborations can succesfully happen in different modalities taking in account the specificities of the maker context. Some of the most important contributors to open source technologies find themselves sometimes in very precarious economic situations, since they are not paid by any specific institution to share their knowledge. That eventually leads to burn out and to missing connections that would have increased our innovation capabilities as societies.
What would be to you a dream mobility scheme for makers? Would you give priority to travel support, social encounters, technical access, production costs, creation process, accommodation or networks building?
Karim Asry: I think we should find ways to support the makers that make relevant contributions to open-source technologies and help these individuals spread their knowledge with direct support to them, including travel, accommodation and fees.
Maker Faire Bilbao 2017
What is mobility in times of world pandemics? Should we still invest on that? And, considering our travel restrictions, how can we continue to grow and reinforce international networks, if we cannot meet one another? Do you think that affects local contexts? And why is that important (or not)?
Karim Asry: Mobility is mainly happening inside the countries, that also have many meaningful connections to be made, but online formats are also adding a lot of value since the legacy of the activities (workshops for instance) can be picked up by anyone in YouTube, for example.