While the historical role of hobbyists in the tech sphere can be traced back to the Homebrew Computer Club and beyond, in 2013 a series of trends are empowering the current breed with more disruptive potential than ever before.
On one hand, the maker movement blends technological innovation with more-traditional DIY skills, while alongside it 3D printing is removing many of the traditional barriers to entry for manufactured goods.
While these movements are still marginal in size (at least in the context of the wider economy), it was at a similar stage of its infancy that Napster embedded an ideal of freely exchanging content that proved hard to push back on as file-sharing technology surged into the mainstream. Essentially, the historical precedent suggests that the next 12 months could determine the shape of the next 10 years.
Traditional business models will also be challenged by the participatory and crowdsourcing elements ingrained in these movements. Services like Kickstarter and Quirky are already emerging to help enable them, and exploration of new pricing models is evident in initiatives like the Humble Bundle.
Underpinning all of this is the inclusion of us, the consumers, whether in the development, pricing or distribution of new products and services. How this new dynamic unfolds will be a key trend in the relationship between technology and the economy in 2013.