The Journal of Peer Production - New perspectives on the implications of peer production for social change New perspectives on the implications of peer production for social change
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JoPP Signal:
9/10
Title: Institutionalisation and informal innovation in South African Maker communities
Author/s: Chris Armstrong, Jeremy de Beer, Erika Kraemer-Mbula, Mieka Ellis
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Abstract:
This article explores the current modalities at play in respect of institutionalisation and informal innovation within maker communities in South Africa. A national scan in 2016-17 generated data on more than 20 maker communities across South Africa. The data provide insights into a number of management, spatial and activity variables present in the practices of the maker communities and their members. This article focuses on two of the dimensions found to be present when looking across the management, spatial and activity variables: institutionalisation and informal innovation. Institutionalisation is conceptualised as resulting in, and from: (1) formalisation of maker communities’ practices; (2) partnerships between maker communities and formal organisations; and (3) embedding of maker communities in formal organisations. Informal innovation is conceptualised as manifesting in: (1) constraint-based innovation; (2) incremental innovation; (3) collaborative innovation; (4) informal approaches to knowledge appropriation; and (5) innovation in informal networks/communities in informal settings. Our data show that since the emergence of the maker movement in South Africa in roughly 2011, there has been an increase in institutionalisation of, and within, maker communities. At the same time, we find that there continues to be a strong spirit of informality in the communities, with most of the communities, including the relatively more-institutionalised ones, actively seeking to preserve emphasis on informal-innovation modalities. Our conclusion is that, in the present stage of evolution of the South African maker movement, elements of institutionalisation appear be largely offering synergies, rather than tensions, with the ethos of informal innovation. Such synergies are allowing South African maker communities to play an intermediary, semi-formal role, as mediating entities between formal and informal elements of the country’s innovation ecosystem.

Keywords:
maker movement, South Africa, maker communities, innovation, institutionalisation, formalisation, informal innovation, constraint-based innovation, incremental innovation, knowledge appropriation, informal networks, informal communities

JoPP Signal:
9.5/10
Title: Making in Brazil: Can we make it work for social inclusion?
Author/s: Rafael Dias, Adrian Smith
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Abstract:
Brazil is a country where many initiatives connected to making have recently emerged. It is also a country in which poverty and social exclusion are still major problems. Seeking to address these problems, experiments in “social technologies” – artefacts, processes and methods oriented towards promoting social inclusion – have developed in the country. There are also interesting examples of “gambiarras”, creative technical solutions produced under scarcity. We review points of connection between these different cultures, making use of the idea of technology scripts to consider how each challenges dominant norms for technology in society, and provides alternative scripts for more inclusive development. The paper then explores the actual and potential role of makerspaces in the city of São Paulo, arguably Brazil’s making capital and the first municipality in the country to create an effective public policy to foster socially inclusive making initiatives. By doing so, we seek a better understanding of how makerspaces may contribute to more socially inclusive relationships with technology.

Keywords:
making, inclusion, exclusion, development, Brazil

JoPP Signal:
8.5/10
Title: Making hardware in Nairobi: Between revolutionary practices and restricting imaginations
Author/s: Alev Coban
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Abstract:
The first makerspace in Nairobi seems to revolutionize the development of hardware in Kenya by introducing new work possibilities for engineers and by turning stereotypes of the Global South (as mere technology recipient) and the Global North (as the only originator of tech innovation) upside down. Nevertheless, postcolonial power asymmetries persist in the relations between international investors and start-ups/makers. By drawing on ethnographic insights, the paper shows how the tech-deterministic and developmental imaginations of global investors and the branding of technology as developed “for Africa” are restricting Kenyan tech developers to only building technology with social impact. Potential customers in Kenya become homogenized as poor and in need of technological solutions, whereby their daily life context becomes ‘othered’ and exoticized as a coherent and rural ‘Africa’. Therefore, the paper claims that practices of making, following a social-impact logic, constitute a performance of poverty, and that the daily negotiations between the investors’ imaginations and the makers’ technological ideas are performatively enacting norms of what – and what not – to build.

Keywords:
Making, Kenya, postcolonial, imaginaries, social impact, performativity

JoPP Signal:
9/10
Title: Makerspaces and urban ideology: The institutional shaping of Fab Labs in China and Northern Ireland
Author/s: Pip Shea, Xin Gu
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Abstract:
Makerspaces—specifically those with a focus on digital fabrication and physical computing—are emerging as symbols of social and economic change in many cultures. Much of the empirical evidence that provides details of this phenomenon has been gathered in neo-liberal market economies in Europe and North America. Existing findings have helped situate makerspaces as sites that emphasise ‘commons based peer production’ underscored by non-proprietary ‘gift economies’ (see Gershenfeld 2005, Anderson 2012, Troxler 2013, Kostakis et. al 2015). These narratives have been expanded by findings that reveal how participation is shaped—and often impeded—by the communities, platforms, and policies surrounding makerspaces (see Alper 2013, Toupin 2014, Moilanen et al 2015, Shea 2016). This paper contributes to the literature through an analysis of the institutional arrangements of Fab Labs in China and Northern Ireland. It argues that processes of institutionalisation within these makerspaces are shaped by the specific urban ideologies they are bound to. Fab Labs in Belfast and Derry (Northern Ireland) are deployed as facilitators and enablers of unification processes in a post-conflict society, while Fab Labs in Shenzhen (China) have been manipulated for a specific post-industrial agenda. Institutionalised makerspaces, shaped by these different realities, challenge existing narratives of maker cultures in several ways: first, the development of makerspaces cannot be divorced from top down processes of nation building, as a range of strategic public policy agencies are involved despite low public participation rates; second, makerspaces are a reflection of local values rather than of the ‘commons based peer production’ paradigm of open source culture; and third, commercial corporations are investing in makerspaces to align with public policy paradigms despite uncertain economic returns. The accounts detailed in this paper further expand dialogue towards a more critical and nuanced analysis of makerspaces and global open source cultures.

Keywords:
makerspace, Fab Lab, open source, urban ideology, institutionalisation, civic media

JoPP Signal:
7.5/10
Title: The sociomateriality of FabLabs: Configurations of a printing service or counter-context?
Author/s: Cindy Kohtala
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Abstract:
FabLabs can be studied as a technology- and product-oriented movement. In this study, I review material objects in European FabLabs as sociomateriality that represents and embodies the ways FabLabs are institutionalising. This refers to FabLabs’ relationships with incumbent institutions and how they impact the formation of norms and routines internally. Labs may adopt procedures familiar in mainstream organisations, borrowing from formal institutions in a quest for public inclusion and mainstream legitimacy, or they may seek to innovate in organisational structure, establishing themselves as informal institutions to maintain their counter-culture identity. Examining sociomateriality helps make visible how Labs manage the contradiction between 'openness' and recruitment of allies, and maintaining alterity. The studied FabLabs' institutionalising processes are ongoing, performative and heterogeneous, encompassing mixed tactics oriented towards both public inclusion (commodification and conforming) and counter-culture (reconstitution and transforming). We also propose that analysis conducted through three types of objects, work, knowledge and imaginative objects, provides a more articulated account of the tensions in material peer production.

Keywords:
FabLabs, sociomateriality, sustainability, institutionalising, STS, ethnography

JoPP Signal:
5/10
Title: The institutionalization of making: The entrepreneurship of sociomaterialities that matters
Author/s: Evelyne Lhoste, Marc Barbier
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Abstract:
In France, makerspaces have been institutionalized and popularized by the generalization of the label “Fab lab”, which is common to many discourses on innovation, is supported by public authorities and recognized by corporate business and high ranked universities. However, the initial structuration needs to be analyzed “from below” to understand how making at the local level is coupled to institutional entrepreneurship. The present paper focuses on the process of creation and development of makerspaces since the emergence of the French “Fablab fashion”. Our analysis is based on a sociological and ethnographic enquiry which started in 2012 (Lhoste and Barbier, 2016). A practice-based approach allows us to question how a field of situated maker practices is related to the organizational arrangements of a plurality of stakeholders, enrolled on premises of innovation and entrepreneurship. The description of practices is grounded in a structurational model in which human actors, technological artifacts and organizations are closely intertwined. We address the following empirical research questions: How are sociomaterialities performed and organized in practice? How are a certain style of making practices and identity of practitioners progressively institutionalized and demonstrated at the local and global levels? Fablabs emerge as organized spaces where practices have agency and articulate knowing in practice with a proto-organization. Studying this process allows to understand how practices are related to the institutionalization of Fablabs at the local and global levels. We highlight the role played by Fabmanagers as intermediary agents, and how their various activities affect the achievement of the initial goal of the project proponents.

Keywords:
makerspace, structuration theory, practice-based approach, institutional entrepreneurs, organizational learning

JoPP Signal:
5.5/10
Title: Can one size fit one? A prospect for humane custom production
Author/s: ginger coons
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Abstract:
In this article, I advance two complimentary arguments. My first argument is methodological. I contend that, in order to understand new technologies and practices in a nuanced way, attending to past analogs is crucial. I support this methodological argument by comparing a historical form of custom production (18th and 19th century dressmaking) against currently dominant practices of mass-customization (flexible mass production customized through online interfaces). A second argument stems from the first: supported by the comparison of a historical and a current mode of custom production, I argue that current modes of mass-customization do not do justice to the potential of custom production. I lay out a set of criteria for doing humane customization and suggest that small-scale production has a better chance of successfully centering the user than does production at larger scales. As such, there is room for those involved in shared machine shops to embody a more nuanced practice of digitally-aided custom production.

Keywords:
mass customization, dressmakers, user agency, digital fabrication

JoPP Signal:
7/10
Title: In situ, 3D printed heritage souvenirs: Challenging conventional spaces and culture
Author/s: Samantha Vettesse, Constantia Anastasiadou
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Abstract:
This paper outlines an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded Design Innovation Development Award project titled ‘Enhancing the Authenticity and Sustainability of the Visitor Heritage Experience through 3D Printing Technology’, undertaken in collaboration with the heritage organisation Historic Scotland at Stirling Castle, between academics in the Schools of Tourism and Design at Edinburgh Napier University. In this study, the research team produced a collection of 3D printed souvenirs in a variety of materials and scales on an Ultimaker 2 3D printer. It was set up within the castle next to one of the halls that formed part of a tour as a small, ‘pop up’ maker space and gift shop.

Keywords:
heritage, souvenir, 3D printing, engagement, maker space

JoPP Signal:
9.5/10
Title: Hacking the museum? Practices and power geometries at collections makerspaces in London
Author/s: Kat Braybrooke
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Abstract:
This paper examines the recent phenomenon of ‘collections makerspaces’, which are defined for the first time as dedicated public sites in cultural institutions with suites of creative tools aimed at inspiring new engagements with a collection through hands-on making and learning practices. Working from the notion of space as a form of power geometry (Massey 1993), its component parts woven together through an ever-evolving constellation of the overlapping histories, imaginaries and cosmopolitics of myriad actors, the paper begins with a genealogy of shared machine shops in the U.K. as viewed through four cumulative waves of innovation, with collections makerspaces located in a fourth wave that is defined by institutional affiliations. The circumstances of collections makerspace sites situated at three museums in London (Tate, the British Museum and the Wellcome Collection) are then explored through an examination of ethnographic observations of practices that are either canonical or distinctive, and the corresponding geometries of power they reveal. In conclusion, it is argued that the collections makerspace is emerging as a key site of critical institutional inquiry which carries the potential to reframe museum hegemonies through peer production practices.

Keywords:
Makerspaces, institutions, hacking, museums, hegemony, power, practices, collections, new museology, digital learning, ethnography

JoPP Signal:
6.5/10
Title: Redistributed manufacturing and makerspaces: Critical perspectives on the co-institutionalisation of practice
Author/s: Liz Corbin, Hannah Stewart
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Abstract:
Increasing digital connectivity and an evolving producer-consumer relationship has enabled contemporary shifts in expectations and experiences of products, production and consumption. Furthermore, the recent growth of shared machine shops has brought about a steady increase in access to the means of production at the local level. The convergence of such emergent digitally-connected technologies has become synonymous with hopes of new post-industrial production practices whereby information on how things are made travel globally, whilst the physical production of things occurs locally, on-demand. At this same time, the augmentation and intersection of ecological issues, technological capacities and economic concerns has given rise to the conceptualisation of Redistributed Manufacturing (RDM); the technology, systems and strategies that change the economics and organisation of manufacturing in ways that enable smaller-scale precision manufacturing, reduce supply chain costs, improve sustainability, and tailor products to the needs of consumers (RiHN, 2017).In recent years, proponents of RDM within academia (including the ESRC and EPSRC), industry (Including Digital Catapult, Innovate UK and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation), and policy (Including Nesta and BEIS) have sign-posted makerspaces or shared machine shops, and the communities who use them, as key actors for the practical embedding and progression of the discourse. The targeted endorsement of RDM at shared machine shops has spurred a significant level of interest, inquiry and tension amongst the communities who use them. As the RDM agenda continues to surround shared machine shops, a tension arises between peer-production practices that do and do not subscribe to the agenda. As the RDM discourse develops, so too does a resultant (un)privileging of particular materials, tools, techniques, and personas. The paper questions for what purpose individuals and communities within shared machine shops are engaging with the RDM agenda. In doing so, providing a case study analysis of how material flows, technical attribution, subjective experiences and context become shaped, unraveled, imagined, governed and institutionalized across peer production communities in relation to external agendas. Through a cross-comparative analysis, this paper will introduce and evidence the dominance of a digitally-legible assemblage of practices across UK shared machine shops in relation to the emergence of a digitally-dominant peer production technomyth. Advancing insights into the shifting hierarchies of the economic, environmental, and social concerns of RDM advocates and how such negotiations and co-constitutionary practices play out in relation to shared machine shops

Keywords:
redistributed manufacturing, makerspaces, peer production, digital fabrication, networks

JoPP Signal:
8.5/10
Title: Achieving Grassroots Innovation Through Multi-Lateral Collaborations: Evidence from the Field
Author/s: Silvia Buitrago Guzmán, Pedro Reynolds-Cuellar
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Abstract:
Collaborations with academia, international organizations, governments and civic society are both an opportunity and a challenge for grassroots associations to achieve their mission while maintaining their values and philosophy. Little research has been done on programs leveraging these collaborations to increase capacity for community-based, peer-production and innovation in economically constrained environments. This article presents the case study of a grassroots organization, C-Innova, in its leading role as organizer of two international design summits hosted in Colombia in 2015 and 2016. The goal of these summits focuses on increasing participants’ understanding of design and technical skills, while fostering aspects of self-fulfillment and psychological needs. These experiences attempt to support and catalyze the emergence of local innovation initiatives. Both summits were organized and implemented through partnerships with local government, cooperation agencies, universities both local and international and members of civic society. We analyze the success of these collaborations across three dimensions: (1) program's objectives, (2) systemic changes across partners as a result of these partnerships and (3) structural improvements and challenges for C-Innova. We find significant changes across all dimensions, suggesting this as a viable model for grassroots organizations to achieve their goals without significantly compromising their core values and beliefs.

Keywords:
grassroots organizations, partnerships, design education, appropriate technology, international development

JoPP Signal:
7.5/10
Title: Configuring the independent developer
Author/s: Tobias Drewlani, David Seibt
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Abstract:
In this paper we present results from an 18 month-long online-based ethnography of Project Ara, in which Google managed to enroll thousands of voluntary contributors into the development of a modular smartphone. Our argument is that, within this tension-laden firm-community entanglement, the figure of the “independent developer” emerged as the central mode of organizing development work. In order to demonstrate this point, we make use of the double notion of ‘figure’ and ‘configuration’ which we borrow from Actor-Network Theory and Feminist Science and Technology Studies respectively. We present three sets of practices that were central in configuring the independent developer: first, the techniques used by the company to interest and enroll external developers, second, the design and redesign of development tools that both enable and control their participation, and third, the creative strategies with which these externals inhabit the company-led project. We end by comparing the figure of the independent developer to other modes of organizing work in digital fabrication and suggesting some ways in which it might be re-configured beyond scenarios of pervasive corporate control.

Keywords:
configuration, user studies, open innovation, digital fabrication

JoPP Signal:
9/10
Title: ReMantle and Make: A cross geographical study exploring the role of makerspaces and the circular economy in Scottish textiles
Author/s: Paul Smith, Michael Johnson, Lynn-Sayers McHattie
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Abstract:
This paper draws on primary empirical research carried out in two maker spaces based in geographically different sites, one urban based in the central belt of Scotland and one rural based in the Scottish Highlands. It reflects on the ReMantle and Make project, an EPSRC feasibility study exploring the role of maker spaces for the circular economy in the Scottish textiles industry. This research presents an analysis of the project, drawing on methods of visual mapping and Situational Analysis to critically examine the relational and democratic factors for maker spaces in knowledge production.

Keywords:
circular economy, makerspaces, textiles, situational analysis