Two years ago, a special issue of the Journal of Peer Production on shared machine shops described them as the “occupied factories of peer production theory”. The authors of that issue compiled a theoretically-grounded and empirically informed analysis of member-owned spaces like hacklabs, hackerspaces and makerspaces — spaces that first appeared to be signaling the power of an emerging democratic revolution in community-based design and manufacturing, but which on closer look also revealed the many contradictions of making and peer production movements themselves.
Our special issue builds on these efforts by taking a deeper look into the complex contradictions and possibilities of making, hacking, fabrication and commons-based practices — practices that are themselves increasingly characterised by institutional interventions. The dilemmas of institutionalisation (regarding both the formalization of practices and the fact that many practice-based spaces are now being embedded within larger organizations like museums, municipalities and businesses) provide us with an opportunity to critically examine networks, spaces and futures that may be assembling in this new phase.
We invite papers that provide theoretically-informed empirical research aimed at advancing our understanding of dilemmas and contradictions in institutionalisation of shared machine shops. Contributions are particularly encouraged that examine what has changed regarding the practices, user experiences and regional networks that surround these sites of institutionalisation — not only in the last few years, but also across shared community histories around the world, drawing upon stories of similar digital spaces, like art-based media labs, that have preceded today’s shared machine shops. Contradictions between the so-called agencies and revolutions introduced by digital design and fabrication tools within these sites will be explored along with the structures of control and power that surround them. What do these continued contradictions and struggles tell us about the promised futures of peer production?
Because this issue looks not only at theory but also at practice, we also invite practitioner commentaries from key makers and thinkers in the field, reflecting on what happens when communities of peer-based making and production attract increased attention from mainstreamed entities, including schools, galleries, tech companies, local authorities, and agencies promoting entrepreneurship. Such attention brings with it ambivalent and complicated opportunities linked to outside agendas. These institutional encounters additionally bring to the surface multiple political dilemmas regarding digital fabrication itself. After all, these are technologies whose computer numerically-controlled histories include the displacement of skilled workers and the undermining of historic manufacturing communities. Are practices in maker communities today actually transforming development processes, or are they simply refreshing new inputs for business as usual? Educational institutions seek ways of building public understanding about technosciences and job opportunities. Local governments get excited about entrepreneurial possibilities. Corporations see easy design prototypes offered up by the free labour of skilled fans. How are economies of labour redefined? How transformational, precisely, are these new peer productions?
This being said, it would be much too easy (and, we argue, lazy) to simply critique and dismiss. Instead, this special issue aspires to constructively scrutinize practices through critical, hands-on analyses of both discourses and practices. What remains of the original transformational aims of a digitally empowered peer production-based revolution when some of the core practices are embraced by the very powers that the revolutionary theory set itself up originally to confront? What new antitheses and innovative reactions are arising today from recent disappointments? What kinds of challenges, transformations and opportunities does institutionalization engender for a new generation’s coming of age? Most importantly, whose revolution will it now be? The papers and commentaries of this issue will aim to move beyond condemnation and/or adulation into deliberately complex and multifaceted understandings of transformation, collaboration and revolution.
Contributions will address this new phase of contradictions and possibilities through three organisational themes which view shared machine shop innovations and experiences through their tensions, contradictions and possibilities. First, we will explore whether reconfigurations of new locations and sites change conceptions and understandings of making and fabrication within them, a phenomenon we refer to as “new spaces in new places”. Second, we will ask what new practices are being introduced by (and in reaction to) increased institutional advances. And thirdly, we will examine what happens when shared machine shops are situated within new urban and regional matrices and processes which bring their own expectations about how machine shops should perform.
Together, papers and contributions will be organized around these thematic areas:
Theme One: New kinds of spaces in new kinds of places
Theme Two: New kinds of practices and experiences in new places and spaces.
Theme Three: New kinds of places in (outer) spaces, from urban to regional.
Important dates and deadlines
30 March 2017: Paper abstracts + proposals for alternative pieces due.
30 April 2017: Confirmed paper authors and practitioners notified.
30 July 2017: Full papers + alternative pieces due.
30 October 2017: Peer review process ends, papers returned.
30 December 2017: Revised papers due.
28 February 2018: Final acceptance / rejection of papers.
1st March 2018 – 1st April 2018: Group intros, texts + alternative pieces finalized.
April 2018: JoPP Issue #12 published!
Extended paper abstracts of up to 750 words + alternative practitioner pieces are due 30 March, 2018. Peer reviewed papers should be no more than 8,000 words. At this time we will also welcome experimental, alternative contributions from practitioners + makers, in the form of 500 word commentaries or photo series that provide reflections from the field on transformations, changes and impacts with regards to shared machine shops today. The format of these thought pieces will be discussed on a case by case basis.