Shared Machine Shops / The Journal of Peer Production

Amsterdam Fab Lab at The Waag Society

This latest edition of the Journal of Peer Production is edited by Maxigas (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya) and Peter Troxler (International Fab Lab Association, Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences).

Despite the marketing clangour of the “maker movement”, shared machine shops are currently “fringe phenomena” since they play a minor role in the production of wealth, knowledge, political consensus and the social organisation of life. Interestingly, however, they also prominently share the core transformations experienced in contemporary capitalism. The convergence of work, labour and other aspects of life — the rapid development of algorithmically driven technical systems and their intensifying role in social organisation — the practical and legitimation crisis of institutions, echoed by renewed attempts at self-organisation.

Each article in this special issue addresses a received truth which circulates unreflected amongst both academics analysing these phenomena and practitioners engaged in the respective scenes. Questioning such myths based on empirical research founded on a rigorous theoretical framework is what a journal such as the Journal of Peer Production can contribute to both academic and activist discourses. Shared machine shops have been around for at least a decade or so, which makes for a good time to evaluate how they live up to their self-professed social missions.

Here is an executive summary:

  • Shared Machine Shops are not new.
  • Fab Labs are not about technology.
  • Sharing is not happening.
  • Hackerspaces are not open.
  • Technology is not neutral.
  • Hackerspaces are not solving problems.
  • Fab Labs are not the seeds of a revolution.

For the Full list of Articles continue to

3 Comments Shared Machine Shops / The Journal of Peer Production

  1. AvatarPatrick S

    Thanks – looks like a very juicy issue!

    Browsing the article on P2P and hackerspaces in relation to the OLPC project in Sth America – I’m reminded of a call a while back in this blog not to see startup founders as the only heroic role-model for tech-enthusiastic young people. The teachers and hackers co-operating in these parts of the world show a different and equally if not more important type of leadership in co-operatively working to find the potential of technology improvement linked to an enduring, expansive social mission.

  2. AvatarPatrick S

    Hi Stacco – yes that’s the one. I see in that post Michel does mention that startups is one of the paths people pursue after being in hacker/maker spaces for a while.

    Here in Melbourne, a new Maker Lab just opened in Footscray, which seems to try to integrate a social mission as well as tech-centric. It is located in what is one of Melbourne’s manufacturing heartlands, that is now, like everywhere else in Australia, partly deinstrialising. We also do had a Co-op meetup group launch this year, which I hope to attend soon.

    Australia is in for interesting times in this space over coming years :- after pursuing neoliberalism at the national level in the 1980s after already dismantling a lot of tariff barriers in the 1970s, manufacturing is really struggling here. We did develop a few other strong export industries in the 90s (exporting wine, and for a while a very strong education market for S-E Asia) but my reading is they are hitting headwinds too. Plus the ‘mining boom’ of exporting iron ore and other resources to China in the 2000s also gave the country a lot of prosperity, but key economists argue that is falling off rapidly, and we got too used to easy money that way. And in my state of Victoria, all 3 major global auto manufacturers that have assembly plants here have announced closing up shop in the next 5 years.

    I guess what I’m getting at is that these more experimental co-production etc projects might become more important here soon if we do have a combination of lots of innovative people, but also tougher employment situation and uncertainty as traditional industries struggle.

    One of our political parties put forward an interesting election promise for our current state poll :- to “put a 3D printer in every school”! Shows it is starting to penetrate the mainstream now.

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