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 (Redistributed manufacturing and makerspaces) image

Review A

Reviewer: Anonymous

Is the subject matter relevant?

Yes, since it directly addresses the issue of the institutionalization of shared machine shops, the contradictions and difficulties that go along with this process. The account builds on the discourse on Redistributed Manufacturing in the UK and on a survey across 97 shared machine shops (open nesta dataset). Therefore, there is a potential for more general insights around the future of makerspaces.

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 authors seem to be familiar with the specific discourse and provide important and interesting references.

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

Yes, unfortunately there are major shortcomings in how the authors analyze the data and how they draw conclusions from that. These strongly affect the line argument.First, the analysis of the dataset suggests that there are specific predominant “actors” across makerspaces in the UK. While the reader can imagine and understand that the table on p.12/13 proofs an unequal distribution, it remains unclear how the authors conclude that this “framing systematically reduces and excludes the communal, cultural and social dynamics of peer- and community production” (13). How do the single characteristics (e.g. gender and brands) relate to each other? How does this prove a change from a wider to a narrower understanding? A longitudinal study would be necessary for making such a claim. The conclusion is therefore not convincing.

Secondly, single concepts like “co-constitution”, “techno-narrative”, “social-technical-material” are not thoroughly explained or systematically grounded in a broader theoretical understanding. What is, for instance, the theoretical difference between “technological” and “material” and why do they need an equal and separate treatment? And to what extent is the “social” dimension sufficiently covered by the mentioned metrics?

Thirdly, there is no discussion about the source, context, and possible limitations of the survey. What is the survey’s origin? Are there any problems or limitations? Based on which methodological understanding do the authors aggregate the data into one single table?

Lastly, the connection of the fourth paragraph to the previous analysis is not sufficiently clear since they are based on very different kinds of data, a survey and a discourse analysis. Based on what methodological understanding can these very different data be bound together?

To conclude, the line of argument has too many shortcomings and requires a profound revision.

Is the article well written?

The first parts, especially the introduction, are written in a comprehensible manner. However, there are a few problems as the amount and inclusion of tables in chapter 3 “Shared machine shops and the technonarrative of peer production” do not support a fluent reading.

More problematic is chapter 4 “Shared Machine Shops and Redistributed Manufacturing as co-constitutionary” that does not present the findings and arguments in a clear and coherent manner and also misses to make a clear point in the end. Especially the citations on page 17 are just listed and lack further explanation. Therefore, it is especially this chapter that should be fundamentally reworked.

Moreover, at various points it is hardly possible to follow the empirical storyline, especially for a reader that is not familiar with the context in the UK. For instance, it is not explained what EPSRC stands for; and “Future Maker Spaces” (p. 5) are not introduced as something specific either.

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

See above.

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 article claims to address the special issue but major revisions are necessary in order to underpin this account.

Where is there room for improvement in the presentation/use of empirical material?As mentioned above, a more reflexive and deeper analysis of the data would improve the argument of the article.

Third, we provide you with the option to either a) recommend the paper is published, or b) recommend it is not.

No, only with major revisions.

Review B

Reviewer: Anonymous

Is the subject matter relevant (to JoPP and the special issue)?

Yes, it is relevant to both journal and special issue. The spine of the article is following how UK funding schemes and academic research on “redistributed manufacturing” shapes the identity of shared machine shops, particularly by highlighting certain technologies (lasers) which are considered modern and backgrounding others (glass) considered antiquated. The schemes seek to integrate shared machine shops into the national manufacturing and service industry, as if they would have any industrial potential. The argument thus addresses the theme of the special issue in two ways: inquiring into the relationship between shared machine shops and larger social institutions; as well as on how such relationship triggers institutionalisation processes in the shared machine shops themselves. In the opinion of this reviewer, recuperation is one of the burning questions of the day that is vital to address in our publications and debate in our scholarly, practitioner and activist circles.

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 treatment of the subject matter is intellectually interesting, but perhaps needs to be sharper (see next question). The paper is based on an extensive literature review and secondary analysis of an extended survey dataset (from Nesta). Its theoretical orientation and reference points are obviously close to the perspective of many other articles in JoPP, so it fits into the “ethos” of the journal.

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

The author(s) lament the homogenisation and institutionalisation of shared machine shops, defending local ecologies of practices and favouring diversity in participant’s profile, lab’s techniques and materials. It is indeed important that the author(s) take sides on these issues, because JoPP at its best is an instrument for interventions in debates between scholars, practitioners, activists. In order to strengthen this point, the normative grounds from which the authors make these judgements could be explicitly clarified in the article. Then it would be possible to explain why variety and diversity in shared machine shops is better than standardisation and unity.

In general there are many valuable critical points in the article, and even better, they are backed up by sound empirical evidence. However, their presentation is veiled in an objectivist language of advantages and disadvantages, despite references to “dialectics”. I am curious how the same conclusions would sound phrased in terms of what is at stake, what can be win or lost in the institutionalisation process. The theoretical framework of “transition theory” in fact works very well within the text and allows for what the author wants to say, but it may be that the limitations of its framing that lead to a picture of a social conflict around technological innovation as a wishy-washy affair. Simply for making my stance clear and suggesting material for consideration in future research along similar concerns, I mention as alternatives the theoretical framework of Technology and Product Oriented Movements from David J. Hess:

… and the theoretical framework of critique and recuperation in technological cycles from Delfanti, Smith, Söderberg and maxigas, summarised here:

… as well as Söderberg’s idea that technological determinism can be in fact can be turned against its masters by the underdogs and mobilised as a rhetorical and legitimation force: The same general tendencies can be observed in the explication of many points such as the strong argument, again supported by evidence, that a deterministic (e.g. fetishising) techno-narrative takes hold of shared machine shops throughout this specific institutionalisation process – this is a great finding worth to rub in through explaining how and why this is a Bad Thing. In summary judgments and assumptions are validated correctly in the article; where I take issue is merely their manner of presentation.

Is the article well written?

The article is well written and the argument is clear. There are minor language mistakes which can be weeded out by a careful copy editor, for instance: “RDM certainly being no except to this rule.” should be “RDM is certainly not an exception to this rule” or “RDM certainly not exempt from this rule”, etc.

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

I feel that the article is well balanced between literature review, presentation of the data, analysis and critical judgement.

Other questions

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)?

See the answer to Question 1.

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

The argument is based on the secondary analysis of empirical data, which is not a problem. I would like to know more about the author’s involvement and role in the process under consideration, as well as how the research sits within the dissertation project mentioned. Shortly clarifying the situatedness of the author(s) would improve the article by making explicit some context which is only hinted at vaguely at the moment.

Do you recommend it for publication?

 I definitely recommend it for publication.

Editors’ review

Thanks again for your paper (and commitment) to the Institutions special issue of the Journal of Peer Production. We have now received the reviews, one of which recommends ‘minor’ and the other ‘major’ edits. We agree with the reviewers that your paper features a thoughtful and interesting discourse on the complexities, difficulties and grassroots possibilities that lie within processes of RDM institutionalization, using data highly relevant to the special issue’s theme. However, we also agree that there is work yet to be done before it can be published. Here we set out our editorial position in relation to the recommendations.

In summary, the main requests of the reviewers and editorial team include:

  • Both reviewers agree that while the paper addresses its theoretical literatures well, the sections that explore the methodological and empirical aspects of your findings need to be significantly reworked. A deeper and more reflexive analysis the dataset itself and its source (despite heavy use of it, you have not listed it in your citations), how you have chosen to analyse the data, your own situatedness as researchers in this area, and how exactly you came to your methodological understandings are all necessary components of this work that the reviewers feel have not been adequately addressed yet.
  • Reviewer 1 in particular would like to see a discussion about the source, context and possible limitations of the survey itself. Reviewer 2 takes issue with the objectivist language about advantages and disadvantages that is used in the presentation of your claims, and points out the limitations of transition theory as an analytical framing. Reviewer 1 notes further that because your two forms of analysis (survey and then discourse) are based on very different kinds of data, better justification of how these data can be bound together is needed. S/he also takes specific issue with concepts like “co-constitution”, “techno-narrative”, “social-technical-material” that s/he feels are not systematically grounded in a broader theoretical understanding.
  • There are also various claims made that are not justified or clarified further with corresponding literatures or other sources, which as both reviewers note can make the paper seem overconfident in making claims that simultaneously feel like opinions; for example, the sentence that ends with “…making centralised approaches to manufacturing less appealing” on page 1 – making these approaches less appealing according to whom? And less appealing to who? Where exactly, in which parts of the world, is decentralisation becoming more appealing instead? Another example is that while you do take the time to define terms such as ‘peer production’ and ‘community production’ (for which readers will be grateful), other terms like ‘technonarrative’ are used without defining your intended meanings of them. Given the diversity of backgrounds amongst your readers, it is important that statements of this kind are backed up – and clarified – wherever possible to avoid a universalist tone.

Lastly, as the journal does not have funds for external copy-editing, we ask that you do a professional round of proofreading before resubmitting, as several small issues and inconsistencies have been noted regarding minor mistakes in language and formatting, and missing sources next to citations such as the quote at the bottom of p5. Other issues include misspellings like ‘Maxigras’ on p7 instead of ‘maxigas’, conflations of capital- and lowercase terms like ‘Makerspaces’ in the title and ‘makerspaces’ throughout the paper, incorrect punctuation and/or run-on sentences in areas such as “The remit of these two-year funded networks, included;” on p4 (both the comma and the semicolon are not needed here), the use both ‘of’ and ‘for’ in the first sentence of the paper “new redistributed norms of for designing and manufacturing”, and the use of ‘overtime’ instead of ‘over time’ in the p2 sentence “In this paper we will argue that overtime”. JoPP formatting also requests the inclusion of an abstract, as well as a standardised citation format in Harvard style, so please modify these points in addition.

We hope this feedback is useful and constructive; despite the edits necessary, we all agree the paper carries great potential in its examination of a complex and timely set of issues around institutionalization. Many thanks, again, for being involved in the process!