Innovation, Economic Driver, Disruption: Utopias and Critiques of Making and Hacking
Location 130
Date and Start Time 02 September, 2016 at 16:00
Sessions 5


  • Silvia Lindtner (University of Michigan) email
  • Denisa Kera email
  • Shaowen Bardzell (Indiana University) email
  • Jeffrey Bardzell (Indiana University) email
  • Anita Chan (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) email

Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

This track investigates how STS can interject criticality in contemporary "making" and "hacking" discourses, while taking seriously underlying desires of utopian world making. We invite debate, paper and workshop submissions that explore questions of prototyping, labor, exclusion, center-periphery.

Long Abstract

Sites and practices of making and hacking (including but not limited to open source software and hardware, repair, hackerspaces, DIY bio, internet of things) are celebrated in the public media, by governments and recently also corporations as emergent forms of technology innovation. They are heralded as a new era of computing, taken up in policy programs in regions in China, Taiwan, US, EU, Indonesia, Singapore, Africa, and more, aimed at cultivating a mindset of entrepreneurialism and innovation thinking. In parallel, a critical line of work has emerged that questions the naive utopianism of democracy and individual empowerment visible in maker discourse. What counts as making or hacking often excludes long-standing sites of technology production as a way of asserting hegemony of established (largely Western) sites technological innovation. And yet, these two perspectives also share a common interest in making and hacking as a form of knowledge production and critical intervention into what counts as site of expertise in R&D, visible in efforts such as "critical making" and "research through design."

This track invites paper, open debate and workshop submissions to investigate how STS can interject criticality in contemporary making and hacking discourses and practices, while taking seriously the desire to craft alternatives. We invite proposals that address any combination of the following:

- Making and hacking at the so-called periphery that challenge dominant models of technoscientific innovation

- Reflections on the epistemic functions of the prototype, the open source hardware platform, CNC machines, and so on.

- Reorganization of work and labor

SESSIONS: 4/5/4/5/4

This track is closed to new paper proposals.


The Dark Side sf Crowdsourced Film Projects or how Freedom was Swallowed By Neoliberalism

Author: Pedro Cabello (New York University)  email

Short Abstract

Life in a Day series is a successful example of crowdsourced documentaries.The movies take advantage of a collective intelligence (Lévy) and enhance a participatory culture (Jenkins); on the other, they perpetuate the logic of the neoliberal system creating a biased neoliberal participation.

Long Abstract

Life in a Day series has legitimated the use of crowdsourcing for documentaries. Therefore, crowdsourced projects could constitute a solution to cinema's crisis in consonance with new media and new relationships between consumers and producers. Jeff Howe coined the term crowdsourcing to refer to the externalization of a task in order to take advantage of a globalized world and discover hidden talents. However, the neoliberal model which rules the globalized world taints the promises of freedom that are implied in the term.

The original film Life in a Day is problematic in terms of fair globalization since it portrays histories from the entire world, but from a US-centric perspective. As a result, the subsequent films (Britain, Japan, Italy, Spain) try to correct that by concentrating only on a particular region. Paying attention to the geographic and production differences I argue that the impact of neoliberalism changes from one film to the other, since the depicted societies present modes of resistance to the hegemonic economic system. In particular, the examples of Italy and Spain are relevant because they try to include the discontent of the society towards the political and economic system.

The evident contradictions between the freedom of crowdsourcing and the constrictions of a neoliberal market come into play in every project. The only possible solution to the dilemma is allowing hacking, in the form of film dialogue or remixes, in order to assure the return of the participants' freedom.

Emergence of collaborative innovation spaces : technoutopia and unequalty in SCL (2010-2015)

Authors: Francisco Rojas Fontecilla (Universidad de Chle)  email
Martin Perez Comisso (Universidad de Chile)  email

Short Abstract

The Evolution of collaborative innovation spaces in Santiago de Chile in last years allows new modes of production, limited to reduced communities with technoutopian views. This has been enforced through public policy, media discourse and unequal urban distribution.

Long Abstract

The emergence of collaborative spaces in the last decade, as co-works, co-crafts and mixed spaces is a global phenomenon which has different local manifestations. Santiago de Chile was launched since 2010, through national innovation public policy, as innovation pole to the region, at least in media discourse. The creation of programs like Start-up Chile and specially the emergence of colaborative spaces satisfies actors and communities to create an innovation ecosystem. The openness, risks and effects about these discourses and places has been weakly explored. In this work, we characterized this collaborative spaces through a taxonomy and observed their locations inside the city. The Mapping of colaborative spaces shows inequalties among urban socioeconomical distribution. Also, we explore the public discourse and recent history of configuration about collaborative innovation spaces and their habitants as new class of citizens, in the last 5 years. In our view this phenomena in Chile vitiated a view about technology, innovation and entrepreneurship with a technoutopian message, that is focused in this spaces as nodes. Finally, the challenges to reach a broad public with this new modes of production and working are limited to access to this community in chilean capital.

Hackerspaces as sites of flexible urban digital labor: The case of door systems

Author: Maxigas . (Lancaster University)  email

Short Abstract

The paper takes up the theme "Reorganization of work and labor", asking how participation in hackerspaces is organised in response to changing social conditions, through conventions and technologies? Flexible urban digital laborers develop door systems to better mediate their social relations.

Long Abstract

This communication takes up the theme "Reorganization of work and labor", asking how participation in hackerspaces is organised in response to changing social conditions, through conventions and technologies? The units of analysis are changing conditions in society as a whole, hacker clubs as organisations in the middle range, and a case study of techno-social means through which participation is organised: the door systems.

The political economy of hackerspaces is closely tied to the political economy of their membership. Flexible technology workers negotiate the establishment of a shared time and space through a communication network in order to share affect and expertise. The technical medium which mediates these social relations have been developed in hackerspaces and it is specific to its milieu. Starting as an artefact replicated across hacker clubs, it grew into an infrastructure that ties together not just individual spaces, but the scene itself. A techno-social innovation that reinvents opening times and time clocks.

Thus, this invesigation is situated at the intersection of three research programmes. One that fills the void between ethnographic case studies of digital labour and the sociological critique of cognitive capitalism by interpreting initiatives of self-programmable workers in the context of social history. Another that aims to complete the socio-ethnographic account of the hackerspaces as common infrastructures of peer production. And a third which asks the question of material semiotics about socio-technological innovation: how agency is distributed geographically, temporally and logically through material networks comprised of humans and non-humans?

The Role of Context in the Creation of Digital Technology

Author: Kari Koskinen (The London School of Economics and Political Science)  email

Short Abstract

Although the basis of software development is largely technological, also the context in which it takes place impacts the process. This paper studies how context matters in developing applications for local markets in the region of East Africa.

Long Abstract

The ongoing digitalization and increased connectivity across the world have made application development technologically feasible in almost any part of the globe. No matter where one is, most of the resources such as application programming interfaces (APIs), software development kits (SDKs) and required skills can be acquired via Internet. There is an increasing interest towards promoting software development and creation of app economies to serve local markets. What remains more unclear is how the context, where application development takes place, is relevant. This research aims to answer that question by studying application development in East Africa, concentrating to Kampala, Uganda. The data has been collected by interviewing entrepreneurs and software developers in the region and doing participant observation in the local tech hubs where many of the start-ups reside. Using structuration theory and the concept of habit formation in the user space the research finds that even though the technologies and skills needed for the application development are there, the context heavily conditions what type of applications are created and how, as well as the ways applications are being pushed for targeted users. The contextual challenges for the entrepreneurs are not only technological, but also display themselves in the form of existing social habits that the entrepreneurs aim to replace with their technology-driven solutions. The entrepreneurs find themselves between two different types of structures, those that come with the technological resources and the ones that exist in the context where their applications are built and used.

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Hacking New Global Orders: Local Startup Networks and Re-scaling Innovation Ecologies in New Millennial Ecuador

Author: Anita Chan (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)  email

Short Abstract

Ecuador has made global headlines for prominent sustainable innovation projects. Yet while news reports hail its creating an Andean Silicon Valley and forging new South-South relations, its projects face growing criticism, including by youth networks developing multi-disciplinary maker and startup ecologies.

Long Abstract

Over the past decade, Ecuador has made international headlines as the site of a series of prominent sustainable innovation experiments and large-scale technology projects that promised to establish new pathways towards a 21st century knowledge economy. From the launch of new, rurally-based technology and research-focused universities, to the development of the Yachay City of Knowledge initiative - whose name in Quechua means knowledge- the nation's government has mounted a series of initiatives aiming to transform regional infrastructure, develop national human capital, and draw in new partners from global innovation sectors. All this to supposedly benefit of a new generation of knowledge workers. Yet while international news reports hailed the Andean state for developing a new rival to Silicon Valley, and deepening relations with Asian states to bolster new South-South alliances, locally, such projects have faced growing criticism for replicating global hierarchies. In the midst of such developments, urban youth networks in Ecuador have worked to develop multi-disciplinary maker spaces and start-up incubator ecologies pressing for alternatives to state-promoted sustainable innovation models that many argue exclude the very populations they claimed to best represent. This paper thus focuses on the rapid growth of such networks as novel spaces from which models for political innovation and policy proto-typing can emerge. While state-based innovation policies continue to underscore the need to import foreign expertise to foster competitive knowledge economies, start up spaces have pressed forth their own models that, in distinction to state-sponsored programs, highlight the vibrancy of local creativity around sustainable innovation.

Aspirations Here/Elsewhere: Alternative World-Making for Hackers and DIYbiologists

Author: Cindy Lin (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor)  email

Short Abstract

This ethnographic study investigates how DIYBiology and hacker practices not only exist in relation to past and contemporary processes of knowledge production but also serve as sites to probe scientific and technological futures in Indonesia.

Long Abstract

DIYbiology (Do-it-yourself biology) and hacking are uniquely positioned as sites of political action and democratized knowledge production open to contestation and negotiation. From the utopian entrepreneurial pursuits of economic reformation to the critical reworking of scientific education, this paper documents my year-long ethnographic research on DIYbiology and hacker cultures in three different cities in Indonesia. In this paper, I investigate how DIYbiology and hacker cultures unfold in relation to regional scientific and technological production in Indonesia. In doing so, I undertake the project of looking at "gaps" (Tsing 2005) by interrogating the limits of dominant ideologies related to hacking and making in marginal sites of innovation.

Calling into question how hackers and DIYbiologists participate in alterative world-making projects, I demonstrate how maker and hacker cultures are not only shaped by and shape past and contemporary regional knowledge production processes but also serve as emergent sites of aspirations and future-making in Indonesia. These aspirations and ambitions however, exist in a highly uneven and patchy terrain, revealing contradictions which rupture any continuous cultural imaginary of making and hacking across disparate sites.

This paper builds on a growing body of STS scholarship which recognizes the culturally embedded practices of making, hacking and design in non-western contexts and how innovation exist beyond dominant spaces of technological innovation and digital labour (Lindtner 2015; Irani 2015; Barker 2015). In doing so, this paper extends work studying peripheral modes of grassroots technoscientific innovation that challenge analytical frames such as west/east and developed/developing.

Unpacking the mass-entrepreneurship and innovation landscape in China: makerspaces/ incubators

Authors: ShihMing Wu (Tsinghua University)  email

Short Abstract

In this study, we focus on the representation of innovation in the makerspaces and incubators of China and how different stakeholders are shaping the landscape. The works reveal the tension and evolution within the variety of innovation dynamics in China.

Long Abstract

The aim of this study is to investigate the dynamic representation of innovation in the makerspaces / incubators of China. Due to the encouragement of the "mass-entrepreneurship and innovation policy by Chinese government, hundreds of maker spaces/ incubators were built up for supporting techno innovation and entrepreneurship in the past year. The maker spaces and incubators have become the bridgeheads to accumulate the knowledge, capitals, makers and entrepreneurs for innovation where the public and government can participate in. The role of government, scientists, or entrepreneurs in the process of innovation have been well explored in previous studies, and they were considered as major players in the system. However, few works have been done on the representation of innovation in the context of local authorities and people, who insist upon different stances and purposes on the activities, and there is still a gap to figure out how different stakeholders are shaping the innovation landscape. The study was carried on by filed survey and interviews with the members, including the managers, makers, entrepreneurs and other service providers in makerspaces/ incubators supported by the government, and the documents of the policies and public opinion on media and social network in China were also reviewed. The study will serve to reveal the tension and evolution within the variety of innovation dynamics in China.

Multiple stories: Making makerspaces in Nairobi

Author: Alev Coban (Goethe University Frankfurt)  email

Short Abstract

Challenging euro-centric narratives about makerspaces, this paper offers a story about a makerspace in Nairobi which strives for industrial revolution. Ethnographic insights show the multiplicities of utopian imaginaries, socio-material practices and the political in makerspaces.

Long Abstract

The growing literature on makerspaces predominantly contain either the hype about innovative spaces that will solve social problems or the euro-centric characterization of makers forming a counterculture or Do-It-Yourself movement against capitalist structures. By neglecting local contexts and detailed analyzes of everyday practices, the functioning of makerspaces is often told as generalized stories.

In my paper, I will challenge those dominant narratives by looking at the emerging makerspace-scene in Kenya. Telling the story of Gearbox in Nairobi - a makerspace which does not want to be called like that and which is still in the making itself - reveals new constellations of actors and socio-material practices. The aim of Gearbox is to offer the usage of high-quality machines to professional entrepreneurs who want to produce high-tech prototypes in order to attract investors to start mass production. Differing from post-industrial contexts Gearbox strives for an 'industrial revolution', which also comprise starting with basics: building a space for manufacturing Printed Circuit Boards (PCB) for instance.

By doing participative ethnographic research with various actors in Nairobi's innovation scene, I am interested in the contextualization and parallel description of specific socio-material practices in makerspaces. Hereby, I emphasize the multiplicities of and various small narratives (Law 2002; Law and Mol 1995) about utopian imaginaries, criticisms, daily life experiences as well as the political dimension of prototyping. In this sense Do-It-Yourself possesses multiple meanings: in Nairobi, it represents more an answer to a government which is not supportive of hardware innovation than an anti-capitalist reaction.

How Western Making Imagines Premodern Post-apocalyptic Geographies

Author: Josef Nguyen (University of Texas at Dallas)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines particular discursive threads in Western maker cultures that frame places like present day Guatemala and rural China as aspirational geographies of pastoral and preindustrial making and are, subsequently, suggested to already be interchangeably post-apocalyptic.

Long Abstract

This paper investigates how a major strain in contemporary Western making culture rooted in Silicon Valley politics overlaps with a longer history of doomsday preppers and survivalist practices. While not representative of the entirety of maker culture, claims for the value of making, DIY, handicraft, and other manual forms of expertise as necessary for the future are not uncommon. Reading justifications for making practices in conversation with popular interests in survivalism, such as reality television and ads for emergency preparedness kits, I show how discourses of various making communities in the West negotiate both utopian fantasies of limitless innovation and self-reliant individualism and apocalyptic anxieties over survival capacities amid societal collapse. I will focus on the implicit models of both history (time) and geography (space) that such discourses deploy, which I argue largely reifies the West as synonymous with industrial modernity through the narrative uses of non-Western geographies in shows like Survivor, magazines like MAKE, and doomsday prepper guides. I show how "peripheral" places like present day Guatemala and rural China are constructed as aspirational geographies of pastoral and preindustrial making and are, subsequently, suggested to already be interchangeably post-apocalyptic with reference to the "center" of Western making. With attention to how such discourses around making imagine non-Western geographies as simultaneously both premodern and post-apocalyptic, I suggest strategies for proliferating alternate histories and geographies to account for a greater diversity of spaces and times of making.

Making Inquiry: Making as Research

Author: Jeffrey Bardzell (Indiana University)  email

Short Abstract

Constructive inquiry is the practice of using fabrication practices, including engineering and design, as an inquiry methodology. In what ways does or might making constitute an analogous inquiry practice?

Long Abstract

Common to design, craft, art, and engineering is the materialization of ideas through acts of fabrication and construction. Often, such acts are positioned as research. Yet the nature of such constructive inquiry is highly contested: what constitutes methodological rigor, a result, or validity? Into this mix, I add making: how does (or might) making constitute an inquiry practice?

I argue that there are two ways that one might understand making as a research practice. One is that making can inherit research practices from any of the disciplines that it embraces: for example, the user-centered design (UCD) research outcomes in human-computer interaction (HCI) can presumably be achieved in making as well. The other way is to consider what distinctive qualities of making might serve as epistemic resources for pursuing research. I will argue that making's inter-/trans-/un-disciplinary heterogeneity, its commitment to participation in and democratization of technology design/innovation, and its ideological commitment to reverse engineering, unboxing, opening the black box of technology all serve as epistemic resources. That is, these qualities of making facilitate its capacity to contribute to certain kinds of research. Some have leveraged this to suggest that making is well positioned to (crowd-) research the future Internet of Things. Outside of the West, research is showing that making is positioned to do very different kinds of research, including investigations of technology- and production-mediated nation-building and cultural identity.

Making Taiwan: How a "Citizen's Phone" became a Site of Nation-Building

Author: Shaowen Bardzell (Indiana University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper documents the HanGee movement in Taiwan and shows how the making of a citizen’s phone and the nation are mutually constitutive.

Long Abstract

On Feb 28, 2014, Fred Chien, a Taiwanese maker initiated the "HanGee Movement." This project constituted a proposal for an open source "citizen's phone" for all Taiwanese citizens. It was to leverage Taiwanese engineering expertise and local materials.

Why is a maker project about a mobile phone positioned as a "movement"? What is a "citizen's phone"? Why do Taiwanese people need their own phones, distinct from everyone else's? The HanGee Movement is both a technical and political project. It contributes to a series of closely related burning questions in Taiwan's policy, technology, and creative communities: What is the place of Taiwan on the global stage, culturally and economically? How might Taiwan's proud engineering culture best be utilized in service of its people?

The date of this movement is significant. It references an infamous moment in Taiwan's history in which the government massacred tens of thousands of civilians, marking the beginning of the "White Terror" period. How the 228 Incident subsequently came to be commemorated is of singular symbolic importance in Taiwan's democracy. By positioning the HanGee project as a "movement" and referencing the 228 Incident, Chien offered a proposal that links IT innovation, Taiwanese nation-building, and democratic progress. It is doubtful that Chien sincerely believed a phone will lead to such transformations. It is best interpreted as an aspirational image, one that proposes a way of framing the relationships among technology, economy, democracy, and Taiwanese identity and serves an epistemic function, both proposing and enacting a distinctively Taiwanese preferred future.

Making China: The Open Source Phone and the Nation as a Design Material

Author: Silvia Lindtner (University of Michigan)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines how the making of the open source phone RePhone was aimed at opening up the black box of contemporary electronics production, and in so doing proposed China itself as design material.

Long Abstract

In September, 2015, Seeed Studio, an open source hardware design and production company in Shenzhen, China, released their latest DIY toolkit: the RePhone. The RePhone is an open source phone kit, comprising modules of bundled functionality that can be plugged together to assemble a phone of one's liking such as a phone with three cameras or a phone with two sim card slots. "What if we designed a phone to be anything we want to be?," the video of the RePhone Kickstarter campaign posits, "for the last 8 years in Shenzhen, Seeed Studio has been busy hacking the electronics supply chain, to make advanced tools and technologies available to everyone. The result is the RePhone."

This paper unpacks how the making of the open source RePhone is aimed at opening up the black box of industrial production. The RePhone was designed to translate the social and technological complexity of Chinese industrial production into a technological vernacular familiar to a transnational network of open source hardware geeks, artists, designers, and start-ups. By packaging processes of manufacturing into a set of open components, the RePhone functions like a magnifying glass, a detailed, albeit crude, glimpse into select aspects of production. The making of the RePhone, I argue, serves an epistemic function, i.e. it offers lines of thinking about designing and producing through the social and material fabric of Shenzhen. Shenzhen itself becomes the design material, all the while China is remade into a site of expertise in technology innovation.

Hacking, industry, and their agonistic struggles over mobile phone infrastructure

Authors: Susann Wagenknecht (University of Siegen)  email
Matthias Korn (University of Siegen)  email

Short Abstract

What is the relation between hacking and industry? We examine the relation between hacking and corporate infrastructure development and maintenance. In particular, we focus on hackers that target mobile phone networks, and we characterize the relations between hacking and corporate practices as agonistic.

Long Abstract

For a long time, public, research, and industry perspectives upon hacking have been dominated by concerns for cyber-war, cyber-security, cyber-criminality, and copyright infringements. Recently, however, we are witnessing (and we have become interested in witnessing) changes in perspective. Hacking is increasingly framed in terms of creativity, engineering skills, democratized entrepreneurship, and innovation—framings some of which have long been suggested by the hacking community itself, and variations of which are now echoed by research, policy-making, and industry. Yet, what exactly is the relation between hacking and industry? In this paper, we examine the relation between hacking practices and practices of corporate infrastructure development and maintenance. In particular, we focus on hackers and 'security researchers' that target mobile phone networks, uncovering security weaknesses and forcing corporations and/or policy-making to react with technological and/or regulatory changes. Based on a retrospective case study of more than a decade's so-called 'security hacking,' we characterize the relations between hacking and corporate practices as sustained agonistic, often adversarial struggles. Before this backdrop, we will pose the question whether or not hacking thus understood can be—and should be (and by whom?)— subsumed under tropes of creative destruction and disruptive innovation.

Do! Make! Share! The hacker spirit, individual agency, and community

Author: Sarah Davies (University of Copenhagen)  email

Short Abstract

This research identifies a shared ‘hacker spirit’ that encapsulates what it means, to North American users of hacker and makerspaces, to be a hacker or maker. This spirit was fundamentally one of self-reliance, activity, and the proactive seizure of agency.

Long Abstract

The rise of hacker and makerspaces has often been greeted as a means of democratising technology, tools, and innovation. Academic commentators have seen practices such as DIYBio or open source programming as eroding traditional technoscientific authority, while making enthusiasts such as Mark Hatch or Chris Anderson have celebrated opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship through the use of new digital fabrication tools. This paper reflects on these developments by drawing on an interview study of hacker and makerspaces across the US, carried out in 2012 and involving some 12 spaces and 35 individuals. Though hacking and making can be wildly heterogeneous in the practices, sites and imaginations they involve, this research identified a shared 'hacker spirit' that encapsulated what it meant, to these North American users of hacker and makerspaces, to be a hacker or maker. This spirit was fundamentally one of self-reliance, activity, and the proactive seizure of agency. A predilection for 'doing things', 'learning by doing', and personal creativity were viewed as integral to valid use of a hacker or makerspace; by showing yourself to be passive, more interested in talking than doing, or a consumer rather than a maker one ran the risk of revealing oneself as not 'one of our people'. I both report these characteristics and reflect on them. How does this spirit of individual agency and empowerment relate to the concomitant centrality of community in hacker and makerspaces?

'Making' a Difference? Measurable Impact and the SEAD Movement

Author: Kari Zacharias (Virginia Tech)  email

Short Abstract

This ethnographic study explores tensions in SEAD (Science, Engineering, Art, and Design) research and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) initiatives that result from a need to reconcile openness, design thinking and creativity with demonstration of positive impact.

Long Abstract

As interdisciplinary research and teaching in SEAD (Sciences, Engineering, Arts, and Design) becomes increasingly widespread within American universities, researchers, administrators, and educators are under pressure from their institutions, funding organizations, and collaborators to evaluate and communicate the quantifiable benefits of their work. This is particularly evident in educational initiatives in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math), which, despite developing earlier than SEAD, have become a recognizable and highly publicized ally of the SEAD movement. Drawing from participant observation in several university-based STEAM contexts, including week-long "Maker Camps" for middle school students, this paper discusses what the emphasis on measurable impact means for the SEAD movement, and for STEAM initiatives in particular. Maker Camps invite students to spend two days learning about ideation techniques, basic circuitry, 3D design, and kid-friendly programming languages from university faculty and graduate students. The students then use this knowledge to design, construct, and play their own electronic musical instruments. Frequently, tension develops - for both the camp participants and the facilitating researchers - between demonstrating the desired outcomes of the camps and cultivating a free and open environment. Educators and researchers work to provide a space for learning where discovery and failure are encouraged, but they are also required to demonstrate progress, impact, or improvement. Thus, contrary to researchers' stated goals, cultivating creativity at times threatens to become an instrumental goal of institutional assessments.

Creating CoMotion: Visions of Innovation in University MakerSpaces

Author: Samantha Shorey (University of Washington)  email

Short Abstract

University MakerSpaces serve both commercial and creative purposes. This paper considers these dual applications in order to develop an understanding of participant’s visions of “making” within an institutional context. What activity – and whose knowledge – is central to the goal of innovation?

Long Abstract

At the core of MakerSpaces is a dedication to personally meaningful activity. The popular discourse around MakerSpaces centers this constructivist ethos, foregrounding their potential to empower individuals and contribute both physical and intellectual resources for creative invention. Yet, MakerSpaces are often embedded in larger institutions that have a vested interest in encouraging these types of activities. "Tech transfer" has long been part of the Research & Development agenda in university settings where patents provide millions of dollars in royalties. However, more recently university language around invention has shifted from the tradition of "commercialization" to a larger mission of "innovation." Commercialization is defined by profit. But, innovation is a holistic activity that encompasses ideas, methods and outcomes.

For universities, MakerSpaces are a possible site of innovation - and they contribute more than just money to institutions. As a new phenomenon the purpose of MakerSpaces is in active negotiation across the social groups who use them. The proposed paper is based on ten weeks of field research in a university prototyping space. How do makers make-sense of their activities, within the larger goal of the space? I identify four actor-based categories: entrepreneurialism, access, branding and revenue, in order to explain what the MakerSpace is "supposed to do" and what it is that the MakerSpace does. Of specific interest are the disciplinary and gendered lines that emerge as actors categorize and participate in activities that are viewed as either central or peripheral to the ultimate goal of innovation.

Made in Africa: Making, doing, and the labor of future-making

Author: Seyram Avle (University of Michigan)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines the ways that the global maker movement is both embraced and rejected by a transnational network of technologists, scientists and artisans in Africa; and critically unpacks the material practices and discursive labor put towards delivering its envisioned future for Africa.

Long Abstract

STS research has been both enthusiastic and critical of the discourses accompanying the global maker movement, particularly its visions of a techno utopia and individual productivity. This work has drawn on evidence from a range of geographic, socio-economic and political contexts, and collectively speaks to extant literature on alternate forms of technology entrepreneurship and innovation. In this paper, I present what might be characterized as African participation in the global maker movement and how it translates into the critical labor of future-making.

Specifically, I focus on the material practices and discursive work of a transnational group of technologists, scientists, DIYers, artists and artisans in Africa who together articulate an envisioned future for Africa that both embraces and rejects some of the tenets of the global maker movement. I show that while this future resonates with the modern project and is powered, like in the global maker movement, by information technologies and entrepreneurship, it relies more on an Africa centered and historically located ethos of not just making but also 'doing'. Drawing on ethnographic engagements with tech innovation hubs in Ghana and Ethiopia, Maker Faire Africa, and interviews from Kenya, Nigeria, and the United States, I critically unpack what constitutes this form of making and 'doing'. I argue that ultimately the strategic distancing from what is characterized as the hobbyist and individualistic bent of the (largely western) global maker movement works to (re) make a 'new African' subjectivity - one that is committed to the collective social and economic good of Africa.

Steve Jobs, Terrorists, Gentlemen and Punks: Strange Comparisons of Biohackers

Author: Morgan Meyer (MINES ParisTech)  email

Short Abstract

This paper focuses on how biohackers are compared (be it to gentleman amateurs, terrorists, the punk movement, Steve Jobs, and the Homebrew Computer Club). It will problematize the kinds of effects such comparisons afford.

Long Abstract

This paper focuses on how, and to what, biohackers are compared. This is a challenging question, for as we will see in this paper, biohackers are compared to rather unlikely bedfellows such as gentleman amateurs, terrorists, the punk movement, Steve Jobs, and the Homebrew Computer Club. Not only are plentiful comparisons being made, but they are also drawn between different cultures and times, and between different — sometimes opposing —values and ethics. Why are such comparisons mobilised and why are such unlikely figures put side-by-side? What kinds of effects do such comparisons afford? How should we analyse these comparisons?

These comparisons produce several outcomes. They render a new and unfamiliar identity more familiar, and thereby do 'identity-work'. They do so by offering spatial, cultural, and temporal genealogies and frames of reference. In addition, such heterogeneous comparisons provide a variety of interpretational registers which are sometimes related, but are often also dualistic and oppositional. This, then, renders the figure of biohackers as particularly intriguing, ambiguous, controversial, and discussable. As a contribution to the STS literature, I will argue that comparisons need to be empirically traced and embraced by scholars. If the actors studied provide comparison (even seemingly anachronistic and unlikely ones), scholars should closely follow such practices of comparison themselves. They can and should follow what these comparisons do and provoke, without a priori assessing their appropriateness.

To Code is Human

Author: Tiffany Cheng (Barnard College)  email

Short Abstract

The current widespread social interest in technical knowledge contributes to the rise in tech-centrism. People who become attuned to the interpretive flexibility of computing technology will have the coding ‘superpower’ to improvise on future computation projects.

Long Abstract

The current widespread social interest in technical knowledge contributes to the rise in tech-centrism. The recurring social motif is that coding—the world's first 'superpower'—promises to give people the ability to become the competitive innovators of tomorrow. Given both the present social proliferation of technological discourse and Google, Inc.'s new role as the sole benefactor of the Turing Award, it is imperative to critically examine the current role of organizations in the production of technological knowledge. Using Google as a case study, I explore the corporation's commitment to promoting computational knowledge. Specially, I undertake content analysis of Google's two interactive projects: 'Google Developers' and 'Made with Code'. In addition, I draw upon the STS theoretical frameworks of Harry Collins and Wanda J. Orlikowski when examining several web pages and Internet message boards in my analysis. The notable themes derived from my content analysis include: 1) Google's two projects encourage society to unlock technological 'black boxes' like computer programs and coding and 2) the projects, which target different population users, cultivate different forms of expertise. Ultimately, I explain how the development of each expertise is crucial in the training of its respective user demographic. People who become attuned to the interpretive flexibility of computing technology will have the coding 'superpower' to improvise on future computation projects.

Indonesian Open Science, Hacker and Maker movements in the context of Universities' "Community Service Programmes"

Authors: Denisa Kera  email
Cindy Lin (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor)  email
Ujang Fahmi  email

Short Abstract

The origin of open and citizen science movements in Indonesia are the unique community programmes organized in most Indonesian universities since 1950s (Kegiatan Kuliah Kerja Nyata - KKN), which integrate research with community service.

Long Abstract

The DIY culture in Indonesia represented by citizen science projects, such as Lifepatch or HONF, works in close relation with various universities around Yogyakarta. The reason why so many academics and students at the local universities, such as UGM, DWC etc., are willing and motivated to engage in open and citizen science projects is "structural". Universities in Indonesia have a mission to not only teach and conduct research, but also direct community service and action with a goal of improving the living standards, health, education and social wellbeing of people in the rural, but also urban environments.There are whole departments and administrative units, such as deanery, which specifically organize and assess the voluntary, but often also compulsory work of both academics and students in various communities. We will look into the history of these programmes and their present form to discuss how this can offer a valuable model the open science efforts in the "West" and supports integration of formal and informal institutions of research and production, universities and hackerspaces.

Prototype Tools!: Machines, Fabrication Infrastructure, and Access to Precision and Control

Author: Nadya Peek (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)  email

Short Abstract

Means of production are limited to those with the infrastructure for manufacturing. The individual empowerment celebrated by the maker movement is overly optimistic about access to low-volume precise production. I present machine prototypes as an alternate theory for digital fabrication tools.

Long Abstract

Computer numerical control of fabrication equipment has enabled the repeatable production of highly precise objects. 3D printers, laser cutters, and CNC milling machines have become cheaper. Fablabs and maker spaces have provided broader access to these types of tools. However, I argue that these improvements to digital fabrication tools are insufficient for improving access to the complexity and precision that computer numeric control affords. I present new machine building infrastructure that addresses the current limitations of digital fabrication tools.

I have observed a large-scale architectural sheet metal fabricator's R&D department, fablab users participating in a digital fabrication course, students of advanced manufacturing in an engineering bachelor's program, and computational designers in a small-scale professional studio. In these observations, I divide digital fabrication tools into the sub-parts Mechanical Systems, Sensors and Actuators, Control Systems, Communication Protocols, Interfaces, Toolpath Software, and Design Software. While 3D printers might have moved into more accessible spaces, I note that perceived expertise and best practices are not as easily carried to an alternate site. Informed by the limitations I observed users encounter with current tools, I develop infrastructure in the form of mechanical designs, hardware, firmware, and software. Here I emphasise invisible translations users perform to move data between design, toolpath, and machine. This infrastructure is used by myself and others to build digital fabrication tools I present as manifestations of an alternate theory of machine building. With this infrastructure and its deployment, I mean to challenge dominant means of production.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.