From New York to Shanghai, China, the “maker culture” and associated “makerspaces” are helping to drive technical, economic and social innovation.
Makerspaces are cooperative studios where people develop new approaches to technology design based on the open sharing of software code and hardware designs. Inspired by a do-it-yourself philosophy, the maker culture has grown in popularity, receiving significant attention and investment from corporations, governments and institutes of higher education.
UMSI Assistant Professor Silvia Lindtner, whose research has examined maker and hacker cultures and their roles in manufacturing and creative industry developments, is currently working on a project funded by the National Science Foundation titled, “How do-it-yourself makers are reinventing production, labor, and innovation.”
NSF transferred the $253,145 award over to the School of Information from the University of California, Irvine, where Lindtner began the project.
By conducting ethnographic research at four makerspaces in the United States and China, Lindtner will seek to understand the relationship between cultural and material practices in the maker movement. The makerspaces Lindtner is studying are located in New York, San Francisco, Shanghai, China’s center for its creative and IT industries, and Shenzhen, a major Chinese production hub.
The project focuses on questions of how do-it-yourself making and physical makerspace sites contribute to the development of new models of technical, economic and social innovation. The study will help researchers understand non-professional expertise and alternative forms of technical knowledge, distributed collaboration, and inter-cultural exchange of ideas.
As a growing number of hobbyists, artists, engineers and students become progressively more involved in maker culture, the findings from this study could help to better understand and assess current technological and commercial innovation processes and support educational developments in these areas.