The community that now calls the site home, is an amazing mix of wonder from around the world. Every day we continue to be amazed by the imagination, curiosity, and simple awesomeness of everyone who shares their creations with us on Instructables. The Instructables, Our Story
This week, on the National Public Radio (NPR) blog, author Marcelo Gleiser mused that the time feels right for a New Enlightenment.
The central message of the Enlightenment, which took place in the 17th and 18th centuries, says Gleiser, “was the need to create a global civilization with shared moral values. This overarching intellectual framework was far removed from traditional religious precepts. In fact, the Enlightenment declared war on the excesses of religion and blind nationalism.”
Gleiser believes our contemporary globalization of free-flowing information “has realized part of the Enlightenment program. Political frontiers still stand, while ideas move at light speed across the planet. There is an emerging perspective, that of the planetary citizen.”
Will this move us to a new Enlightenment, he wonders? Or simply amplify our existing global discord?
I’m staying optimistic for an eventual new Enlightenment myself, hopeful that, perhaps, we’re on the path now, and I like to think my new found intellectual and social playground, the Instructables, might be a good model for the planetary citizen’s neo-Enlightenment community.
If it’s true, as Eleanor Roosevelt said, that “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people,” then the Instructables Nation is one of great minds. The basic idea is that people make things and then share step-by-step instructions on how those things were made, so other people can make them, too. That’s it : Create, share, repeat.
With a global readership of nearly 24 million, about half of which hail from the U.S. and the rest from around the world, the Instructables Nation is a diverse but egalitarian one, with nearly equal usage among men and women, people of low income and high, families and those with no children, those with college and no college experience. Ethnic diversity lags, but it’s still a relatively young Nation, barely 10 years old.
One of the things that makes the Instructables such an enlightened community, to my mind, is it’s very civilized rule of conduct. Be Nice. Share, and feel free to discuss – but keep it constructive.
We experienced the Power of Nice first hand, when we recently posted an Instructable on making an “Itty Bitty Mini Forge“, an idea inspired by someone else’s project, which we credited, and expanded on a bit. The Itty Bitty Mini Forge Instructable was posted on July 2. In the two and a half weeks since, the Forge has been viewed over 63,000 times, and favorited over 1000 times. I’ve written two books and hundreds of articles in major newspapers and quality journals and magazines, and if my work has been viewed more than a few thousand times in 10 years, I’d be surprised. There is something deeply reassuring that instructions for simply making something were viewed and enjoyed that many times.
Of greater import, I think, is the thread of conversation it inspired – compliments, which are always nice, but also a wealth of intelligent, helpful and nuanced discussion about forging, glasswork, metalsmithing, improving the build, expanding the build, and building new, related things.
Browsing the massive “How-to” library that is the Instructables, with all the related discussions, is thought provoking and inspiring. That the Instructables Nation is built around this huge Library of openly shared knowledge is uplifting – a new age Library of Alexandria with the shared skills of a global community. Sure, some of these shared skills may amount to little more than the cobbling together of tchotchkes , but that’s okay, too. We all want beauty and amusement in our lives, along with the useful and necessary.
“We matter because we are rare,” says Gleiser (and countless philosophers throughout human history), adding, ” A complex molecular machine capable of wondering about its existence should also celebrate and respect its existence.”
A community like the Instructables does just that, and empowers us all to be the makers of our own Enlightened future.