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 (Stuff Matters in Participation) image

Review A

Reviewer: Sandra Álvaro Sánchez

1) Is the subject matter relevant?

The article applies a design approach to the issue of use and participation. With this aim, the author introduces the concept of Infrastructuring as a bridging concept between traditional participatory design and the open processes that characterize emerging spaces of production as Fablabs and Makerspaces. This concept allows the author to conceptualize how participation in design is enabled through the use and appropriation of materials and stuff provided.

This conceptual background will be applied and developed in a case study to address the research question:

How can types of participation be understood and articulated in relation to the socio-material and spatial conditions of the open design production processes?

This research question is addressed through a case study, the setup and management of a co-sewing café by the main author for eight months. This design as research experience will allow to identify different types of participation and classify them in relation to the stuff and materials contained at the space and its use across the different roles, acts and practices adopted by the attendants. This classification will be presented in a table as a conclusion of the study.

The project and the empirical results presented here are relevant as they offer a classification of participation accordingly to the use and the socio-material conditions in a concrete case developed conjointly to a local community. It offers an interesting perspective on the development of the engagement of the participants with an open space of production. The most interesting is that this experience opens a field for further research, notably related to collaborative and hands-on learning and its relation with community-making trough participation. From a more political perspective, this experience leads to questioning how collaborative learning and the maintenance and co-design through adaptation and appropriation of a shared space of production relate with social empowerment and processes of subjectivation.

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 research and findings here proposed are well framed, the author builds a background based on PD theories and Social Theory. He/She introduces the concept of ‘infrastructuring’ quoting the works by Karasti, Björgvinsson, Seravalli Redström, Dantec, C.L. & DiSalvo… The criteria deployed on the proposed classification are also well developed and theoretically framed through previous distinctions and definitions concerning: tools and practices (Shove), use and participation and the temporal nature of design practices (Björgvinsson, Tellier, Kuijer)

The main methodological frame, design-as-research, is also well supported in the bibliography, as well as, all along the text with the comparison of the performed experience with previous experiments as the analysis of Fabriken conducted by Seravalli.

However, despite the author introduces some bibliography about emergent spaces of production, notably through works by Kohtala and Seravalli. The text, in general, lacks a definition of these spaces, its organization and open structure. In this sense, it would be useful to refer to the works by Maxigas about the historical development and distinction of co-owned spaces of production. Other authors working in this subject are Susana Nascimento, Silvia Lindtner, Paul Dourish etc…

There is some literature which could be helpful in the establishment of a definition of the co-sewing café as a specific form of collaborative space. Among them some works about repair and design by Steven J. Jackson, Austin L. Toombs, Daniela K. Rosner and Morgan Ames.

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

The criteria of classification and methodology are well framed by the theoretical background. Concretely participation is well related with the temporal development of design and the proposed distinction between project-time (design before use) and use-time (use-for-design, design-after-design). This distinction supports well the definition of design for infrastructuring. Summarized, an extended form of use beyond design, in which the use of objects becomes taking responsibility, ownership and appropriation. However, in which refers the analysis of the experience, the spatial conditions and material components, tools, materials and practices lack a more concrete explanation, which could relate them with the skills and levels of expertise needed for its appropriation. In addition, concerning the analysis, there is an important corpus of collected materials like pictures, video, interviews, visual maps, which are quoted but not directly applied to support the findings. Furthermore, the examples of infrastructuring like photo-galleries, labels for the different materials, instructions to use specific sewing machines and guidelines for pattern-use, are included on the table, but their emergence and collective development are not described in the text.

Concerning the presentation of results, the main argument, that participation and engagement with the usage of objects evolves temporarily and depending on the skills and frequency of participation of the attendants is not properly developed and justified along the text.

In which refers to the presentation of the findings using tables and graphics. The graphics are poor in the use of resources and visualization methods, this does not allow an easy visual understanding of what they are exposing.

4) Is the article well written?

The text is well written, the language clear and accessible, however, there is recommendable a proofreader to correct some orthographic mistakes.

The text is also well structured:

  • The first chapter introduces the research question, the background and point of view, as well as a concise description of the case study.
  • The second chapter “Infrastructuring and types of use” Introduces the theoretical background and develops the applied criteria of classification.
  • The third point “The case and analysis of the co-sewing café” describe the experience of design as research and the deployed qualitative and ethnographic informed methodologies. This section also describes the use and involvement of the participants and introduces the only case of infrastructuring developed in the text, the translation poster.
  • The fourth point “Analysis: an account of materials, tools, infrastructuring and use” Introduces and explains the final classification expressed on the table.
  • The closing point “Discussion and Conclusions” summarizes the background and conducted experience and introduces some prospective research.

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

As a conclusion, I recommend the publication of this article as it presents original research based in a concrete experience and introduces an argument which could open new questions of research, mainly regarding design, open processes of production and participation.

Nevertheless, I recommend to shorten the second chapter corresponding to the exposition of theoretical antecedents and expand the third and fourth sections. Especially, to include a more precise description of the tools and materials, the practices and skills needed for conducting to a more engaged participation, and the cases of infrastructuring. It would be also valuable to explain the main argument in the conclusion: the clarification of how in the context of a co-sewing café, specific socio-material and spatial conditions inform the user’s participation and development in regards to use practices such as learning new skills or appropriating tools for personalized use.

In what concerns the use of graphical materials it will be recommendable to include more documentary materials to support the explained cases and summarized findings. It is also recommendable to improve the quality of the graphics.

Review B

Reviewer: Vasilis Kostakis

1) Is the subject matter relevant?

Yes, it is. However, the link to commons-based peer production could be stronger and more precise.

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?

Yes, it is intellectually interesting. Continuing from my previous comments, I would suggest that the author refers to the literature that clearly connects the makerspaces (and their community-building potential) with commons-based peer production. Moreover, the connection between participatory design and commons-based peer production could become stronger too. These connections could take place in the first and in the last section (1 and 6 respectively) of the paper.

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


4) Is the article well written?

Yes. I have noticed only a few typos and a bit of clatter. Both problems could easily be addressed in the next round of revisions.

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

Yes. Please see my replies to A and B.