Vienna STS Talk: Sarah Davies

23.11.2016 17:30 - 21:00

Making the Maker Movement: Building Community in Hacker and Makerspaces

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. There have been excited claims of a ‘new industrial revolution’.

I draw on an interview study of hacker and makerspaces across the US (carried out in 2012 and involving some 12 spaces and 35 individuals) to reflect on these developments. 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. At the same time, community was also seen as central, with some hackers arguing that it was the experience of close-knit community that rendered hackerspaces unique.

I report these characteristics and reflect on them. How does a spirit of individual agency and empowerment relate to the concomitant centrality of community in hacker and makerspaces?


Institut für Wissenschafts- und Technikforschung


Seminarraum STS, NIG, 1010 Wien, Universitätsstraße 7/II/6. Stock