Making Futures is a research platform exploring contemporary craft and maker movements as ‘change agents’ in 21st century society.
The biennial Making Futures conference is truly international with authors sending in abstracts for the most recent edition from over 23 countries around the world. This is important because these exchanges help us to develop a unique set of cross-cultural perspectives on the position of contemporary craft and related micro-maker entrepreneurs across non-Western as well as Western forms of Modernity. Indeed, invited editions of Making Futures have taken place in Beijing and Cheongju, Korea.
The next Making Futures conference will be titled Making Futures: People, Place, Meaning - Crafting Worlds & Social Making, and will take place at Plymouth College of Art on 19 & 20 September 2019.
Community is at the heart of the Making Futures agenda and this 2019 edition will, as well as appreciating the value of makers as singular creative agents producing material objects, focus on the social dimensions of maker practices and how these can positively contribute to the construction and regeneration of communities.
Moving between the individual and the social, the personal and the collective, Making Futures tries to explore what it means ‘to make’ and its future significations - personally, socially, its possible impact on sustainable agendas, its relation to new technologies, its possible subversion of mass consumption and potential contribution to the emergence of new political economies.
Produced by Plymouth College of Art and curated by Malcolm Ferris, it consists of an international biennial conference with accompanying exhibitions, an online ‘journal’ that publishes the proceedings, and a series of associated research projects.
What is the Making Futures Agenda?
Convinced of the transformative potential of small-scale making and its capacity to contribute to new progressive futures, Making Futures seeks to situate these material cultures at the centre of the critical issue facing global consumer society: how we move beyond the reductive instrumentalism of ‘homo economicus’ and modes of mass consumption that are destructive of human and non-human natures.
As such our purpose is to explore the possibilities for maker economies built around contemporary craft, neo-artisanal design-to-make and related creative micro-entrepreneurs and movements. We believe that these activities have the potential to consolidate into nascent post-industrial maker ecologies that, while not replacing global consumer manufacturing, can nonetheless contribute substantially to progressive economic and social change at local and regional levels, and beyond.
There is, of course, a broader narrative here that Making Futures connects to, one that recounts the way that during the 19th century, urban centers in the West developed to accommodate mass production; but then, as Globalisation took effect in the late 1980s, passed through de-industrialisation, unemployment and urban decay.
However, it seems possible that we have now reached an inflection point - of peak Globalisation perhaps - where corporate supply chains are exploring ‘re-shoring’ due to rising labour costs in the East, transportation costs, a worsening security environment and, not least, global climate change.
These corporate trends are (arguably) not, in themselves, socially progressive. More to the point, there is a growing disenchantment with global mass consumption regimes and their environmentally destructive procedures, and a developing consumer desire to support re-cycling, up-cycling and to buy ethically produced and/or locally sourced food and goods that support community resilience. In this sense Making Futures aligns itself more with local food initiatives, from the various southern Campesino movements, to networks like Terra Madre, to local farmers markets.
In short, new ecologies of local production and consumption are becoming possible and we are witnessing the early phases of a slow but significant shift to more autonomous and locally rooted ways of meeting needs.
"There is a growing disenchantment with global mass consumption regimes and their environmentally destructive procedures, and a developing consumer desire to support re-cycling, up-cycling and to buy ethically produced and/or locally sourced food and goods that support community resilience."
Rather than seeing craft and maker cultures as necessarily antithetical to contemporary society and part of some escapist refusal of modern life, we want to develop a more constructive view that frames creative regimes of contemporary craft and neo-artisanal production as part of a forward-looking attempt to re-imagine a future-orientated sustainable late Modernity, one in which small-scale makers and micro-manufacturers are attempting to innovate around technology, form, function, aesthetic meaning and social relevance – engaging in responsible (often place-based) market economics but striving to step outside the exploitative forms of commodification associated with the ‘disembedded’ global markets resonant of neo-liberalism to create new expressive possibilities and new creative relationships between individuals and communities.
The Making Futures Journal
We publish the journal as a follow-up to each conference. This is as a free open access resource. Due to feedback we receive we know the journal is being followed and viewed by audiences around the world. The website for the Journal and archive is currently available at: http://makingfutures.plymouthart.ac.uk/, with the journal for the 2017 edition of the conference available here.