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Rhetoric and Research: Hannah Stewart's Wuthering Bytes Talk

Gareth Halfacree

It's Wuthering Bytes month here at oomlout, and we're officially over the hump: the UK Maker Belt's premier technology event opens the doors of Hebden Bridge's Town Hall this Saturday with a day of talks from open hardware luminaries - including our friend and maker-academic Hannah Stewart.

Hannah, a research associate at the Royal College of Art who concentrates on what she describes as "curiosity driven and making" has an interesting perspective to bring: while she's undeniably a maker herself, she's also a certified academic. Recently, she and colleague Andrew Sleigh produced an open set of UK makerspace data for Nesta, the organisation formally known as the National Endowment for Science, Technology, and the Arts, offering a fascinating insight into the growth of the maker movement in the UK. Similarly, Hannah earned her PhD with research on the values and practices of the makerspace, indieweb, and open data communities.

In summation: Hannah really knows her stuff, so when she promises a talk entitled "Research Led Reality - how rhetoric and research shapes the maker movement," you can bet it's based on more than an off-the-cuff observation. Offering, in Hannah's words, a "sweeping overview of the past decade, focusing on the relationship between rhetoric, research, and reality," Hannah's research looks to answer three core questions: what are the promises of the maker movement and does the evidence built up by the research so far prove them; What does the research tell us about the differences between the UK and USA maker movement; and who is funding all the research and what are their motivations and agendas?

For anyone who is not yet embedded within the maker movement and has only breathless prose from the mainstream media to base their perceptions upon, Hannah's talk should offer a grounded insight into what makes the movement tick. Those who are heavily involved, meanwhile, will doubtless find the talk interesting for the perspective it brings - and the research which backs up Hannah's observations.

Hannah's talk is only one of the presentations scheduled for the first day of Wuthering Bytes, which forms the two-day sub-event OSHCamp 2015 in partnership with the Open Source Hardware User Group (OSHUG). OSHCamp concludes with a full day of fascinating workshops on the Sunday, then a full week schedule kicks off culminating in the Wuthering Bytes Festival Day on Friday the 2nd of October. More information about the event, along with the chance to buy the last few tickets before they're sold out, is available from our dedicated microsite.

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