Shared Machine Shops: Beyond Local Prototyping and Manufacturing
Editors: Maxigas (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya), Peter Troxler (International Fab Lab Association, Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences)
In the last years we have witnessed an incredible proliferation of shared machine shops in a confusing number of genres: hackerspaces, makerspaces, Fab Labs and their more commercial counterparts such as TechShops, co-working spaces, accelerators and incubators.
These are currently “fringe phenomena” because they play a minor role in the production of wealth, knowledge, political consensus and the social organisation of life. Interestingly, however, they also experience the same core transformations as contemporary capitalism. That is, for the individual: the convergence of work, labour and other aspects of life. On a systemic level: the rapid development of algorithmically driven technical systems and their intensifying role in social organisation. Finally, as a corollary: the practical and legitimation crisis of modern institutions, echoed by renewed attempts at self-organisation.
Arguably, hackers occupied such an ambiguous position since the beginning of hackerdom, but shared machine shops represent a new configuration. They appear as embodied communities organised in research and production units of physical and logical goods; they even appear to escape the subcultural ghetto as educational institutions, museums, and libraries start to integrate them into their ambit. They are eminent laboratories in both their practices and products: as experimental forms of social institutions, and as the developers of technological prototypes projecting new visions of the future. Industry actors, state authorities and policy makers have recognised such milieus as prolific grounds for recruitment and new organisational models, which in itself warrants critical attention.
Inspired by all these developments, we dedicate the next special issue of the Journal of Peer Production to Fab Labs and similar places.
Some of the questions we are interested in exploring:
* What are the historical conditions and concrete genealogies which enabled the emergence of shared machine shops? (Can we talk about the renewed relevance of craftsmanship?)
* Are rapid prototyping practices changing the relationships to technology, research and development, and innovation? (Are shared machine shops democratising knowledge and production or rather building a new maker elite?)
* How do technologies cultivated in shared machine shops such as personal fabrication intervene in urban and rural geographies? (Is the time ripe for “global villages” or we have to adapt to “smart cities”?)
* What new and old anthropologies and ethics are articulated in shared machine shops? (Who is the “New Man” of Peer Production?)
* Finally, how do shared machine shops interface with the political economy of contemporary capitalism and the military-industrial complex? (If the means of production are in the hands of the workers, is that free labour, a new form of outsourcing, or the germ for a next revolution?)
Beyond local prototyping and manufacturing capability, what is the contribution of shared machine shops to critical practices of technology appropriation, to products, services and consumption patterns, to urban and rural geographies, and to practical political economy and ethics?
Contributions are welcome from scholars and practitioners alike. Collaborative efforts are encouraged. We are mainly expecting academic papers on the one hand, and commented project documentations or narrative vignettes on the other hand, but anything that can be presented on a website could work. However, submitters are advised to keep in mind that the content should address questions of consequence to practitioners, based on realities on the ground, while at the same time they should be reflexive and consider their wider intellectual context.
Submission proposals of up to 500 words due by October 15, 2013, and should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submissions will be notified by October 30th, 2013, and full papers and materials (research papers around 8,000 words, testimonies and documents around 3,000 words) are due by January 31st, 2014, for review.
Final submission deadline is June 1st, 2014.
The special issue is due to appear in early July 2014.
Research papers are peer reviewed according to JoPP review policies.