A Cultural Framework for Equity in Maker Practices

A Cultural Framework for Equity in Maker Practices


This project will advance efforts of the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program to better understand and promote practices that increase students' motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). The project seeks to better understand the creative processes and products of non-dominant cultures of making, and to create a framework for maker cultures that treats diversity as an asset. The maker movement has great potential for helping develop a future generation of scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs, but it currently falls short of offering equitable access to maker spaces and programs. Using a comparative case study of makerspaces that includes two different underrepresented communities, the project seeks to deepen perspectives of making through close examination of the intertwined nature of maker practices, identities and community life. The project research will help to construct theories for a more equitable understanding of cultures of making and the development of guidelines for the design of equitable makerspaces and maker practices. These guidelines, as well other resources, will be disseminated to the maker community, researchers, and other practitioners through Make Magazine, online networks, and other means.

The project will conduct research in two phases: (1) an ethnography of three different communities representing at least three sets of maker cultures as the basis for a cultural framework of making, and (2) a design intervention that empowers students to create and share their own maker activities with other young makers, who may not have access to the types of making that reflect their cultural experiences. The project design framework is based on Participatory Design (PD), which capitalizes on the relationships formed, processes engaged, and products made during the ethnographic phase, to collaborate with youth engaged in making practices to design guidelines for others to participate in culturally relevant making. Using Participatory Design as a framework for democratic innovation, the project use will the products and ideas of young makers to drive innovation of guidelines for culturally representative making activities and new ways of using existing tools that increase equity in making.


Principal Investigator(s): 


Award Number: 



2017 - 2019


Northwestern University IL

Project Status: