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Accepted Contribution:

From “makers-in-the-making” to “empowering hacks”  
Janis Lena Meißner (TU Wien)

Short abstract:

The “Empowering Hacks” project offers a case to discuss the distinction between “Making” and “Hacking” in the Hacker Cultures podcasts. Disability was used as an opportunity to reimagine practices and challenge ableist assumptions.

Long abstract:

Despite its promises of technology democratization, the Maker Movement still lacks diversity. To address this disparity, we might deliberately turn to „unexpected users“ of maker tools and reimagine core hacker values for subversive practices together with them.

This proposal is about hacking the ways in which Making is usually imagined to be performed. It offers reflections on the “Empowering Hacks” project, my long-term collaboration with two men with disabilities on fabricating their own ideas. Our project began with the mission “to produce disabled tools at a cheaper rate but with a more customisable outcome” and so we collaborated on designing, modelling and 3D-printing “wheelchair golfballs” and other assistive gadgets. Externally, “Empowering Hacks” was motivated by creating positive change for others. Internally, our processes of mentoring and production were configured around the interests and social roles of my collaborators. Disability was not perceived as an impediment but as an opportunity to reimagining Making practices.

My reflections are rooted in a key distinction between “Hacking” and “Making”. While Making encompasses a wide range of practices using digital fabrication tools, Hacking denotes self-directed technological action for chosen purposes. In “Empowering Hacks”, my collaborators did not identify as makers, however as makers-in-the-making they had freedom to figure out their own ways to make. Their hacking became a performative and material challenge to ableist assumptions about disabled people not being able to be designers or creators. The dialectic podcast would be an opportunity to further unpack the subversive capacities of reimagining making through hacking.

Combined Format Open Panel P347
Hacker Cultures! The Podcast Panel Season 3!
  Session 1