The evolution of Finnish maker culture
The DIY culture of the 21st century, known as maker culture, is based on sharing knowledge and ideas, applying technology in open-minded ways and working together.
As Finnish DIY culture has a rich history when it comes to all of these aspects, Finnish maker culture can also be seen as a continuation of our history of crafts.
In agrarian society, DIY implements were essential and manual skills were a precondition for a self-sufficient lifestyle. These aspects of peasant culture are discussed in ethnologist Kustaa Viikuna’s book Isien työ Veden ja maan viljaa Arkityön kauneutta (1943). The Finnish Cultural Foundation has also published a DVD collection of the documents described by Viikuna entitled Isien työt, available free of charge at http://www.kansatieteellisetfilmit.fi/isientyot.htm
The teaching of manual skills has an internationally unique history in Finland, as women’s and men’s crafts were specified as subjects of study in the 1866 Decree on Primary Schools. Crafts as a school subject has evolved over the decades, but arts and crafts subjects still play a significant role in the Finnish basic education system today. There is no other country anywhere in the world that would have an equally long history of a national system of manual skills education. Also worth noting is the operations of adult education centres in Finland can be traced back to 1899, when the Tampere Centre of Adult Education was established.
Another interesting perspective on the sharing of ideas and skills in Finland is Kodin taitosanakirja, a “book of skills” compiled by Vilho Setälä and first published in 1930. The book contains an alphabetised set of instructions for making a wide range of household implements, along with advertisements by suppliers of materials. In later editions, the book’s title was changed to Taitokirja (1952) and Suuri taitokirja (1965). The Whole Earth Catalog (published 1968–1972 in the United States) shares certain characteristics with Setälä’s books, although it was more of a counterculture publication that not only provided instructions for making things, but also promoted an alternative lifestyle and independent DIY culture.
The Internet plays a significant role in maker culture by facilitating the sharing of information and bringing makers together. Finnish technological development can also be linked to this phenomenon, as one of the first Internet-based communication services used by private individuals was IRC (Internet Relay Chat), developed in 1988 by Jarkko “Wiz” Oikarinen in Oulu. IRC enabled real-time conversations internationally.
The manifestations of Finnish maker culture include makerspaces and maker events.
The first open technology workspaces in Finland were the Tampere Hacklab and Helsinki Hacklab, which both opened in 2010. The number of Finnish hacklabs has since increased steadily, with 14 active locations around Finland currently listed at hacklab.fi.
Open workspaces have also emerged in Finland with the arrival of the Fab Lab network. Established at MIT in 2003, the network is maintained by The Fab Foundation, which currently lists more than 1,200 Fab Labs around the world. There are currently five such fabrication labs affiliated with Finnish universities: Aalto FabLab (Espoo), TUTLab (Tampere), SensiLAB (Turku), RasekoFablab (Naantali) Fab Lab Oulu (Oulu). The first of these was Aalto Fablab, which was established at the Media Factory in Helsinki’s Arabianranta district in 2012.
A third category of today’s DIY workspace is makerspaces at public libraries. The Kaupunkiverstas Urban Workshop in Helsinki opened in 2013 as a continuation of a previous space known as “the meeting place”, piloting the activities of an open workspace in a public building. The Urban Workshop subsequently moved to the premises of the Kirjasto 10 library and it is set to be integrated into the new Helsinki Central Library Oodi.
Workshops at City of Espoo libraries and Tekomo in Tampere are other good examples of the continued expansion of library services in the 2010s. The equipment provided in makerspaces located in libraries typically includes 3D printers, vinyl cutters and sewing machines. There are also workshops with more diverse equipment, such as the Iso Omena makerspace in Espoo and the upcoming Oodi library.
In the area of maker events, the non-profit organisation Wärk has played a key role. It organised its first Wärk:fest DIY festival in 2012. Since then, it has organised Mini Maker Faire events in Espoo in 2015 and 2017 in accordance with the international Maker Faire concept. Another Wärk:fest will be held in Espoo in November 2018. The events are like cultural festivals for makers, giving them the opportunity to present their projects, participate in workshops and find inspiration together. Hundreds of Maker Faire events are organised each year around the world, with the largest ones – the Bay Area Maker Faire and the New York Maker Faire – attracting tens of thousands of visitors.
Other events that are closely affiliated with maker culture include Hacklab Summit Finland, Pixelache Festival and Hyvinkää VärkkäilyFEST.