Learning: the key to happiness?

As I skipped out of Hackney Wick last week following a three-hour one-to-one learning experience, I wondered what it is about the process of picking up a new skill that is so satisfying.

Action for Happiness, a charity dedicated to building a happier society, cites ‘learning new things’ as one of the keys to happier living, while Oliver Burkeman cites ‘working with your hands’ as being another possible secret to happiness.

Given that both learning and working with your hands are key components to our new business venture, Yodomo, this bodes well for us building a happiness-focused business.

Another major component in the Yodomo business model, however, is technology — and this is where the happiness vibe starts to come into question. Where does technology stop becoming an enabler and start becoming an imprisoner?

As we’re researching and testing the Yodomo proposition, this complex relationship between learning, physically ‘making and doing’ and technology is being explored and questioned.

In a new publication, Crafted in Britain (Bloomsbury 2017), Anthony Burton celebrates the many traditional crafts and industries of Britain that have survived into the modern world, where craftsmanship and personal skills are still valued. In his introduction, we are reminded that in the 19th century Britain was often described as ‘the workshop of the world’.

Despite a major shift in economical focus on the services industries, the traditional crafts and industries have not only managed to survive and today, but are even enjoying a major 21st century revival. As the Guardian reports in a recent article by Ruth Potts, ‘The New Materialism,

“Everywhere people are beginning to make, do, share and get involved.”

It would be reasonable to connect this revival in making and doing as a knee-jerk reaction to the post-digital era — a bid to release the human from its reliance on screens back to the creative hands-on energy of yesteryear. The close connection between this revived maker movement and technology, however, cannot be overlooked.

The label ‘maker’ has very different connotations today depending on which community you’re speaking to. Talk about ‘makers’ at MIT and most would assume a reference to the many technologists tinkering with technology and physical objects, sharing their skills in on and offline communities.

Talk about ‘makers’ in Stoke-on-Trent in the UK, and it’s more likely that the label will conjur up the ceramicists, the basket-weavers and the textile artists. Yet this latter group of makers, often called ‘designer makers’, has its own close relationship to technology.

On Instagram, the hashtags #makersmovement or #makersgonnamake clock up between them over 2 million references. It’s no surprise that this generation of makers is turning to the most visual of social media platforms to share and promote their skills and products.

The growing number of ‘designer’ makers is not only growing its profiles and businesses via Instagram and Facebook, but also developing audiences and sales through online sales channels such as Etsy and Not On The High Street and getting paid through online payment mechanisms such as PayPal and Shopify. These technology-led businesses are transforming the way in which this new wave of ‘real world’ offline maker businesses is able to operate.

For many makers, from enthusiasts to professionals, while the release from technology is a major motivator for ‘making and doing’, it’s also the mechanism for sharing and selling the results of that making process.

Our vision at Yodomo is to put a value on that making process, creating a platform that enables designer makers to share their skills and create additional revenue streams for their businesses.

For the team at Yodomo, understanding the intricate relationship between the physical activity itself and the technology surrounding it, has become crucial to our business. As a creative team of part-time makers and do-ers, we are in awe of the level of creativity generated today globally through making and doing. As a generation of professionals having worked in digital for nearly two decades we also have a heightened consciousness of how technology, when best applied, should act as an enabler.

To date, online ‘how to’ content has become synonymous with the YouTube environment, or through the first generation on online learning platforms such as Udemy. But we’re convinced there’s much more that we can offer.

Keywords that we’re considering as we build a new option for online tutorials are ‘quality’, ‘value’ and ‘aesthetics’. These are integral to our vision of the Yodomo product. This is our first Medium post for Yodomo and no doubt this vision will be tested as we move forward.

The learning experience is an exhilarating one — and we aim to document our own learning journey with this venture here.

If you’re interested then do please follow our journey, share our vision and support our community. We’d love to hear from you.

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