A very interesting PhD thesis by Cindy Kohtala (2016).

Full title: Making Sustainability – How Fab Labs Address Environmental Issues.

“Citizens are increasingly involved in the design and production of their own products. Forerunner groups are exploring new ways of doing things with digital fabrication tools, a phenomenon known as the maker movement. Especially communities who work together in dedicated spaces, makerspaces, are rapidly proliferating. They are of research interest, as they are now experimenting with new practices and organizations that indicate the possible impacts of a digitalizing society. They carry potential to do away with the negative environmental impacts associated with mass production and consumption (and decouple them from socio-economic prosperity), but there may also be new, unforeseen environmental consequences of such prosumption.

This dissertation reviews the environmental issues in the maker movement, and it examines how environmental sustainability is taken up in Fab Labs (fabrication laboratories) or remains invisible and unaddressed, based on longitudinal analysis. The thesis sheds light on our possible futures, as these niche activities move towards the mainstream. It clearly demonstrates how communities attempt to enact ideology: how we shape technologies and technologies shape us.

Primarily through ethnographic research methods and Symbolic Interactionist analysis, the thesis examines daily practices and discourses in selected Fab Labs and how sustainability is represented in these communities. The findings articulate how the actors’ interactions, expressed intents and contextual conditions serve to shape the Fab Lab. The key finding is the conflict actors encounter between – on the one hand – setting ambitions, promoting particular ideologies and espousing sustainability-oriented values, and – on the other hand – realizing and enacting these values in the mundane and constraining routines of everyday practice. Even actors with a clear ecological mandate struggle to engage with emerging sustainability issues in a rapidly changing sociotechnical environment. Present topics of concern and everyday tasks overshadow future strategy and vision work as well as engagement with environmental issues and rapid technology developments. However, actors who consciously and visibly strive to enact the espoused Fab Lab ideology, i.e. offering access to empowering, distributed technologies that enable people to meet their own local needs by design, appear better able to identify and tackle the environmental sustainability issues as they arise. Environmental issues are also intertwined with and embedded in other ideological concerns, but they are rarely promoted in their own right.”

Find this PhD dissertation here.

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.