Digital fabrications amongst hackers, makers and manufacturers: whose 'industrial revolution'?
Johan Soderberg (Göteborg University)
Adrian Smith (University of Sussex)
Maxigas . (Lancaster University)
Adrian Smith (T011.1) and Maxigas (T011.2)
Pedro Cabello (New York University)
Alev Coban (Goethe University Frankfurt)
Thursday 1 September, 11:00-12:45, 12:30-14:15 (UTC+0)

Short abstract:

Digital design and fabrication tools (3D printers, etc.) are said to create agency, community and work. Yet they stem from numerical control machines, whose conflicted history deskilled workers and stole their livelihood. What does this contrast tell us about the promised future of "making"?

Long abstract:

Our track brings critical analysis to the plurality of collectives, spaces and futures that are assembling around increasingly accessible digital design and fabrication technologies. Computer integrated tools hold historical ironies and contradictions: early introduction threatened skills, livelihoods and identities amongst manufacturing communities - while they are celebrated today as enabling agency, identities and communities for makers. Whose industrial revolutions, if any, do tooled-up assemblages portend?

STS has much to contribute to understanding, engaging and bridging digital fabrications, past and present; conversely, apparent historical turnarounds in digital fabrication, with repurposed tools spilling into new collectives and spaces, offers an opportunity to interrogate STS theory and methodology.

Fifty years ago, social ecologist Murray Bookchin, like other commentators, welcomed a future in which collectives would own tools and organise production non-hierarchically around 'liberatory technologies'. Does grassroots appropriation of digital fabrication in hackerspaces, makerspaces, FabLabs and amongst user groups online, mean his future for egalitarian tool-based creativity has arrived? Or do digital fabrication futures reinforce the automation, flexible specialisation, and globalised outsourcing documented by David Noble in the 1980s; and which has been a motivation amongst manufacturing strategists since then? How do business- and activist-centred collectives and spaces pursuing different futures intersect, contest, and co-exist? Who is making these contested futures?

We welcome papers that provide critical reviews, original empirical studies, and theoretical developments.