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
Reviews (Making in Brazil) image

Review A

Reviewer: Anonymous

1. Is the subject matter relevant?

Yes, the analyses of how making practices are entangled in the Brazilian context and how they can leverage social inclusion are extremely relevant as more and more development agencies, social policies and other actors are funding makerspaces for educational purposes. Furthermore, it is a crucial endeavor to depict practices of making in other contexts than the normalized Global North.

2. Is the treatment of the subject matter intellectually interesting? Are there citations or bodies of literature you think are essential to which the author has not referred?

The subject of how to make for social inclusion is highly interesting. The author focuses on daily practices of making in Brazil in order to advocate for a materialization and thus integration of the socio-material environment outside the makerspace into the making processes. Therefore, inclusive practices are embraced leading to a ‘barefoot making approach’ and the empowerment of makers who are able to build alternative socio-technical scripts.

As I’m enthused by the reference to Akrich’s ‘Description’ (1992), I see some potential to strengthen the theoretical/conceptual argument of the paper. It would be helpful for readers of the paper to extend the reference to Akrich and explain the author’s take on scripts/de-scripting in more detail. This more detailed part about the conceptual framework of the paper would help to better grasp the various scripts mentioned; e.g. “global manufacture script” (p.7); “catch-up script” (p.9); “re-scripting making for social inclusion” (p.20); “create their own scripts” (p.21). At some point in the paper, ‘script’ could also be read as a synonym for ‘narrative’ or ‘discourse’, e.g. “the mainstream script in maker culture” (p.23).
If the author follows this recommendation of emphasizing their conceptual approach, it would be recommendable to integrate that conceptual argument into the introduction, so that the theoretical/conceptual claim of the paper becomes more prominent.

3. Are there any noticeable problems with the author’s means of validating assumptions or making judgments?

In general no. In regards to the conceptual framing see above.

4. Is the article well written?

Yes, it is well written.

The main improvement could be to revisit the formatting and structure of the text: The text consists of many paragraphs which is made even more visible through the spacing between each paragraph. Thus, I would reduce the spacing between the paragraphs and between the headlines and the text.

Additionally, some transitions between the content of successive paragraphs are missing. That becomes most clear in the introduction: the ideas of each paragraph seem disjointed.

I would recommend to write more focused and coherently about producer-user boundaries. Also, the introduction gives no clear hint about the argument of the whole text. Maybe that could be solved by carving out the conceptual lens of ‘de-scripting’ and emphasize that in the introduction (see above).

Some minor improvements in regards to the structure and readability of the text:

– Transitions are missing between those sentences: p.5 “…autonomy rather than subordination. Or are makers falling back…” and p.8 “…have an appetite to help make the connections. By exploring the potential…”
– I would recommend to center long quotes and not to right-align them.
– It seems that the last three paragraphs of chapter 2 would fit more into chapter 3 in terms of the content. So everything following the sentence “From the perspective of a developing Latin American country, …” (p. 9) could be shifted to the next chapter which focuses on the Brazilian context.

5. Are there portions of the article that you recommend be shortened, excised or expanded?

As a reader who is not familiar with the Brazilian context and wishes to learn more, I would encourage to add a footnote to explain what the term/imagination/lifestyle/? “tropicalismo” means.

On the contrary, the explanation of the term “social technology” is repeated several times throughout the text. Thus, I would claim that one footnote or explanation in the text is enough.

The contextualization and description of São Paulo’s FabLabs starting from page 15 to 17 (up to “enthusiastic children and teenagers.”) seems too long for a descriptive part. Perhaps, the author could reconsider if all information are essential or if some parts could be shortened.

Other questions

1. How adequately does the paper address the special issue topic of ‘institutions and the institutionalisation’ of makerspaces, and how could the connection be improved (particularly within the three themes in the CfP)?

The paper shows how Brazil has a tradition of making called ‘gambiarra’ even before the hype around makerspaces and with it the institutionalisation of making emerged. In a context where the state has been focusing on policies to get more productive and competitive by taking the Global North as role model for technology and knowledge production, the paper illustrates the paradoxical expectations about how machine shops should perform. On the one side, the author presents stream-lined makerspaces and on the other, they present a makerspace which has the potential to make inclusively due to its diverse visitors/makers and environment. Thus, the paper follows the CfP by giving hands-on advices on how to make makerspaces and making more inclusive. All in all, the paper fits perfectly into the third theme “New kinds of places in (outer) spaces, from urban to regional”, as it shows the diversity of FabLabs and the expectations about their performance – even in the context of a single city.

2. Where is there room for improvement in the presentation/use of empirical material?

I would encourage the author to state more clearly where they reference their empirical work. I gained the impression that the empirical insights start on page 19, but it would be helpful if the author could make that more clear.


I recommend that the paper is published.

Review B

Reviewer: Anonymous

The paper is very appropriated for the dossier’s theme.

The article is divided in 5 sessions. From 1 to 3 the author’s realized a very good  analysis of the theoretical debate and framework.

The argument and writing is clear. However, when it comes to session 4, the empirical case under analysis (São Paulo’s Fab Lab in Cidade Tiradentes), I think it was very superficial.

Therefore, the author’s could only develop an argument as a prospective or hypothetical analysis of what it would be necessary to have a Fab Lab adequate to the inclusive policies envisioned by the author’s initial argument. It would be very interesting to have a more ethnographic description of actual practices within this specific Fab Lab.

Nevertheless, I believe the article brings good elements to our debate, and therefore I am favorable to its publication.

Editors’ review

We have now received both reviews. Both regard your paper as highly relevant to the special issue theme, for which I am grateful. I was especially engaged by your analysis of the “change in script” needed in the Brazilian perspective, and the actual and potential roles of digital fabrication there, including the ways making practices are increasingly complexified as external actors collaborate. However, both reviewers do suggest edits in the narrative and sequencing of the paper, a few major and most minor in form, before inclusion.

Here I set out my editorial position in relation to these recommendations. If you are able to meet the below requirements satisfactorily by submitting a revised version before our deadline on the 15thFebruary, we would be delighted to feature your revised paper in the special issue.

In summary, Reviewer 1 finds the topics and research outlined in the paper interesting and timely. However, s/he would like to see a strengthening of the theoretical and conceptual claims of the paper – a suggestion we especially agree with in the introduction, where very few sources from external literatures are cited in the various claims made about the maker movement and its significance, for example your mention of a “producer/user economy” but no further description of what you mean by this, or the literatures you have read to make these claims. Reviewer 1 suggests clarifications of this kind can happen through extending your current references, like Akrich’s ‘De-scription”, further by providing more granular examples of your use of theories. S/he also calls for a more focused and coherent narrative overall in the text, noting various transitions and paragraphs that seem to be either missing or out of place and affect overall readability. I agree with him/her in his/her point that it would also be useful to see more contextualization of terms from a Brazilian context (like “tropicalismo”) for those not familiar with it. Lastly, s/he would appreciate better and more specific sign-posting to your empirical data itself – when it is referenced, where you have integrated it into your analysis, etc.

Reviewer 2 feels the paper fits well with the special issue themes and appreciates its contribution to current debates on institutionalization. However, s/he agrees with Reviewer 1 in pointing out a lack of empirical development in the paper, specifically within Section 4, marked by a superficiality of the only case study outlined. S/he would like to see more than prospective or hypothetical evidence of your initial arguments in the data. S/he suggests a more thorough ethnographic description of practices within the fab lab to address these gaps – something that I feel could be easily achieved through further direct quotes from interviews with your informants and other moments of allowing yourself to “speak through them”.

Furthermore, while the reviewers agree the paper addresses the special issue topic of evolutions in shared machine shops, there is also a feeling that the paper’s empirical exploration of institutionalization factors that may relate to the site you feature was given too simplistic a treatment. You note the importance of long-term financial support for this site and others like it – perhaps a further exploration of this (again in the words of your informants, using empirical evidence) could further enrich your discussion around the special issue’s core topics.

Lastly, as the journal does not have funds for professional copy-editing, I must ask that you do a last serious round of proofreading before resubmitting, as there are many sections with small mistakes in the use of language, punctuation (such as unnecessary commas or commas in wrong places) and/or the tenses used, such as the capitalization of “20th Century” on page 4, your statement about computer-numerically controlled machine tools on page 5 (“appropriated for more creative, human-centred application, and for hence for wide varieties of purposes”) which includes an erroneous ‘for’ that should be removed before ‘hence’, or the omission of a word (“tone”, maybe?) at the beginning of the conclusion in the sentence “Although the mainstream script in maker culture often assumes a rather techno-optimistic ____” which leaves it hanging.

Getting even more granular on formatting, I additionally agree with Reviewer 1 that the shortness of paragraphs, especially in the introduction, can in certain cases be confusing. In the abstract, for example, ‘and’ needs to be removed from: “the experiences that draw from the promises of digital fabrication tools towards promoting social inclusion (thus linking them to social technology) remain few, and most of which…”. Another example is found at the beginning of the introduction on page 1: “The notion that any person or group has the potential to create and improve stuff is attracting large numbers of people to have a go themselves, but also intriguing significant numbers of observers and academics who try to explain the phenomena, as well as interesting a variety of cultural, educational and innovation institutions and agencies, such as libraries, schools, museums, and local authorities, who wish to engage and support this activity for their institutional purposes.” This is a run-on sentence and needs to be divided into two after “have a go themselves”; furthermore the use of “interesting” would be more clear if you added clarifiers to it, for example something like “it is also interesting to”.

Despite this, I want to re-emphasize that we would be very happy to see a revised version of this paper, as we all feel you’ve put together a powerful (and often poetic!) piece of work that will greatly augment this special issue. I hope this feedback is helpful and constructive. In addition to delivering your revised paper, I would be grateful if you can list and explain your responses to the reviewer recommendations in a cover letter. Many thanks, again, for being involved in this enriching process with us.