A Guide To User Hacks

One of the central tenets of Promise Communispace is that everyone has the capability to be creative. In his presentation, ‘Can Consumers Really Be Creative’, Dr. Nick Coates includes two striking examples of emergent ingenuity – ‘hacks’ that build on already existing materials to provide innovative solutions to old problems. One is an inventive way to light any room simply by using plastic bottles filled with water. Elsewhere, people are developing DIY weapon hacks to devastating effect.

Take a tour around the web and you will find plenty of other imaginative hacks which help to demonstrate not only that ordinary people have the capacity to be endlessly creative, but also that they often produce more effective innovations when they work together.

Here are a few examples:

IKEA HACKS

Think it’s difficult to put together flatpack furniture? For the users of Ikea Hackers, it’s all too easy. They see Ikea furniture in the same light as a child sees Lego: as building blocks for the imagination. Standing desks, secret rooms and daschund ramps: the Ikea Hacker community will show you how to make your humble Alan key work for you.

THINGIVERSE

We’ve all heard about the coming 3D printing revolution, but few of us have any idea what we might be able to print when it finally arrives. Thingiverse is an online community where people can share the digital code for physical objects. Some are bizarre, creepy, or useless, but others respond to a genuine consumer need.

INSTRUCTABLES

Instructables is a similar community, but for people who don’t have access to a 3D printer. Members share  instructions for creating almost anything using readily available materials, from a ‘motion activated speed suit’ to a MIDI controlled lighting display for your electric piano. The community spirit is strong: users continually comment on their own and others’ hacks, and identify improvements discovered though experimentation and continued use.


GITHUB

One for the more technologically minded, but hugely important nonetheless. GitHub enables its members to upload and share code which range from providing little fixes to common problems, to whole programs. My pick of the day: this emoji thesaurus.

SUGRU

This is technically a little too advanced to be counted as a ‘hack’, but I’d like to include it as a particularly effective hack-enabler. Sugru is a malleable, waterproof and durable rubber that can be used to fix almost anything – and the website allows its users to share pictures of their hacks with others. Here are some ways in which Sugru hackers have used the product to improve their homes.

You might have noticed that these hacking platforms do more than show off the creativity of ordinary people. They also  point to a business trend that’s been gathering momentum for a while: the rise of services – like Airbnb and Uber –  that act as enablers for consumer exchange, and which disrupt existing markets by turning consumers into makers and suppliers. The success of these brands is a sign of things to come: consumers have been given a taste of freedom in the service industry, and they will begin to seek it in other areas of their lives. As technologies such as 3D printing become more advanced and more accessible, which markets might be next to be disrupted by the powerful combination of technological autonomy and dormant consumer creativity?

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