Innovation to What End?

Makerspaces as Sites for Science Education


Michael Tan


Makerspaces have risen in prominence in the recent five years as sites for the acquisition of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) competencies. Often spoken in the same breath is the supposed ability of STEM and associated practices to ‘change the world’, in deliberately disruptive ways, and to euphemistically ‘drive the economy’ while at it. In this chapter, I argue for a closer examination of the teleological aims of science education, specifically in the light of recurrent movements since at least the 1960s to closely tie education to specific societal goals. Such approaches rely heavily on technocratic rationalities which fundamentally misunderstand the nature of innovation, learning, and human (and non-human) agency. I use considerations of creative problem solving in design, the nature of abductive reasoning practices in science, and Andrew Pickering’s Mangle of Practice as lenses to develop a curriculum argument for science education generally speaking, and in makerspace activity in particular. In essence, I advocate a transdisciplinary approach to instruction, and a greater embrace of the literal and metaphorical messiness of learning and becoming.

Michael D. Gumert, Amanda Wei Yi Tan, Lydia V. Luncz, Constance Ting Chua, Lars Kulik, Adam D. Switzer, Michael Haslam, Atsushi Iriki and Suchinda Malaivijitnond


Stone-hammering behaviour customarily occurs in Burmese long-tailed macaques, Macaca fascicularis aurea, and in some Burmese-common longtail hybrids, M. f. aurea × M. f. fascicularis; however, it is not observed in common longtails. Facial pelage discriminates these subspecies, and hybrids express variable patterns. It was tested if stone hammering related to facial pelage in 48 hybrid longtails, across two phenotypes — hybrid-like (N=19) and common-like (N=29). In both phenotypes, tool users showed similar frequency and proficiency of stone hammering; however, common-like phenotypes showed significantly fewer tool users (42%) than hybrid-like phenotypes (76%). 111 Burmese longtails showed the highest prevalence of tool users (88%). Hybrid longtails living together in a shared social and ecological environment showed a significant difference in tool user prevalence based on facial pelage phenotype. This is consistent with inherited factors accounting for the difference, and thus could indicate Burmese longtails carry developmental biases for their tool behaviour.