Through deep ethnographic engagements in parts of Africa, China, Europe, Indonesia, and the United States, we explore situated cultures and histories of making, hacking, and DIY (do it yourself) science. We trace how those who advocate a contemporary maker or hackerspace movement both draw upon, but also depart in significant ways from earlier visions and practices of open source software and peer production. Our research shows how making is enrolled in contemporary entrepreneurship and innovation discourse and demonstrates how it happened that making, hacking and DIY science became the site of negotiating technological authorship and legitimacy in transnational knowledge networks. Today, making features in national policies across regions, large corporations invest in open source hardware and “making” to cultivate an entrepreneurial attitude amongst their workforce and upgrade production processes, and schools, libraries and educational programs draw upon making to transform learning through a hands-on approach. We explore what is happening as diverse actors from national to local governments, large corporates, technology entrepreneurs, artists, tinkerers and technoscience enthusiasts, come together to promote and experiment with alternate forms of knowledge production. What role does making, hacking, and DIY science play in contemporary shifts in organizational culture, the rise of an entrepreneurship ethos, and the re-organization of labor?

Ongoing Projects:

From hobby to socioeconomic driver: Innovation pathways to professional making in Asia and the American midwest:

Team: PI – Silvia Lindtner, Co-PIs – Shaowen Bardzell & Jeff Bardzell (Indiana University), doctoral student – Cindy Lin; Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Cyber Human Systems (CHS), award #1513596.

“Making” has been widely envisioned to enable a transition from tinkering to prototyping and entrepreneurship and, finally, to help revive industrial production across regions. Through empirical research, hands-on design workshops and international comparison, this project examines and documents successful pathways from making as hobby to socioeconomic driver, and how they are supported by technological, policy, economic, and pedagogical infrastructures. Broadly, this research provides a contribution to studies of technology innovation in regions beyond more familiar technology hubs like Silicon Valley: Asia and the American Midwest. It contributes to discussions that place models of technology innovation and design in relationship to local histories, cultures, and sociopolitical contexts. This includes debates around non-linear stories of technological progress, creativity, and design. This research also contributes to a growing body of research focused on investigating the tools, techniques, and social organization of maker collectives, hackerspaces, and repair practices by providing both an ethnographic foundation and technological insights for emerging issues concerning making’s transition into production and entrepreneurship.

How DIY makers are reinventing production, labor, and innovation:

Team: PI – Silvia Lindtner, Co-PI – Garnet Hertz, Postdoc – Seyram Avle
Funded by National Science Foundation (NSF), Human-centered Computing (HCC), award #1321065

The contemporary landscape of information technology production is one that has been profoundly influenced by the emergence of so-called ‘maker culture’ since the 1960s and 1970s, with the technology landscape full of products that depend upon open source and similar alternative models of production. Society currently finds itself in the middle of a new maker movement through a growing network of ‘hackerspaces’ or ‘makerspaces’ that expand ideas and practices of the Web generation into hardware and manufacturing. Hackerpaces are cooperative studios where people develop new approaches to technology design based on the open sharing of software code and hardware designs through the use of technology such as computer controlled laser cutters, 3-D printers, and microcontroller kits. Hackerpaces are places where new models of innovation are explored, where values of openness and participation are re-assessed, and where new relationships between people and technology are forged. To understand these phenomena, this NSF-funded project conducts one of the first multinational ethnographic research studies of hackerpaces in the United States and China. The goal of the project is to understand the relationship between cultural and material practices in the maker movement. Accordingly, the focus is on the daily practices in makerspaces, with particular attention to how they experiment with models of social organization, distributed collaboration, and peer production.

DIY science and tech production cultures in Indonesia

Team: Cindy Lin, Advisor – Silvia Lindtner

This project explores how the culture and politics of DIY (do it yourself) making and DIY science unfold in relation to histories of colonial science and contemporary innovation discourse and policy-making in Indonesia. Through a mix of ethnographic engagements, hands-on workshops and co-designed artifacts, I build from existing work on the transnational collaborations between DIYbiologists, scientists, makers and artists to investigate the material practices, social organization and ethos of DIY makers, tinkerers and enthusiasts alike. Themes this project examines include questions around legitimacy, where design is located, the evolving site of technoscientific practice and the infrastructures that enable such work. Drawing from science and technology studies, human-computer interaction, and anthropology, this project aims to unsteady prior understandings of innovation and see knowledge as contingent and always in-the-making. This project also registers as an aspiration to further research in DIY making that opens up ways to recognize its multiplicity, which I argue is crucial to the making of alternative, and yet never stable, futures.