Despite the marketing clangour of the “maker movement”, shared machine shops are currently “fringe phenomena” since they play a minor role in the production of wealth, knowledge, political consensus and the social organisation of life. Interestingly, however, they also prominently share the core transformations experienced in contemporary capitalism. The convergence of work, labour and other aspects of life — the rapid development of algorithmically driven technical systems and their intensifying role in social organisation — the practical and legitimation crisis of institutions, echoed by renewed attempts at self-organisation.
Each article in this special issue addresses a received truth which circulates unreflected amongst both academics analysing these phenomena and practitioners engaged in the respective scenes. Questioning such myths based on empirical research founded on a rigorous theoretical framework is what a journal such as the Journal of Peer Production can contribute to both academic and activist discourses. Shared machine shops have been around for at least a decade or so, which makes for a good time to evaluate how they live up to their self-professed social missions.
Here is an executive summary:
Shared Machine Shops are not new.
Fab Labs are not about technology.
Sharing is not happening.
Hackerspaces are not open.
Technology is not neutral.
Hackerspaces are not solving problems.
Fab Labs are not the seeds of a revolution.