Adam Savage at Maker Faire: the importance of sharing

Adam Savage gives a talk every year at Maker Faire. It's one of the highlights at the Bay Area event. This year, Adam talked about why sharing is such an important part of the maker movement.

I'm here to defend sharing as a vital aspect of maker culture that is intrinsic to the underlying ethos of what it means to be a maker, and by extension, a human being.

Some people don't want to share

I once attended a gallery show where the artist had done some fairly novel executions of portraits using common materials in a way that was really surprising. I asked them about their process and they told me they didn't want to share it with me. They wanted to keep the technique a secret

At one point, when I was working in a special effects studio, a friend of mine was making these large round forms using a very specific set of techniques. He was doing it for a week and a half, and it was fascinating — all the levels that he went through. I asked him if I could take pictures of the process and he said yes, but he would withhold key parts of the information from me so that I could not learn how to do this. He considered it part of his job security

For years the makers of Barbie dolls have shut down any and all Barbie themed art shows and artwork. This is a grossly misguided form of copyright and trademark protection. It seems that they imagined somehow that they can dictate how people think about and discuss Barbie through their enforcement.

I disagree vehemently with this stance. I view it as antithetical to making as a practice, as a discipline, and to being a member of any community. As a member of a community of humans, art is one of the key ways in which we converse about the world and what is going on around us. Human progress is made not simply because of how we make things but also because we share what we make and how we made it.

The first two examples I gave are examples of people mistaking the techniques that they know for a commodity. The third is based on the specious idea that one can control everything about a brand

And I know that unique processes have a value and the inventor of those processes should benefit from that value. I believe that – that's what our patent and copyright acts are built to address. But each of the three examples I gave are about treating something as a scarce commodity when it is not scarce at all because sharing defies the laws of physics — the more you give away the more you have.

Image: YouTube screenshot/Make