"Now, with the Tools Available at a Makerspace, Anyone Can Change the World..." How Makerspaces Can(not) Contribute to a Democratization of Work and Production.

Monday, 16 July 2018: 16:02
Oral Presentation
Klara-Aylin WENTEN, Technical University Munich, Germany
This paper focusses on the interdependence between democratized production – as supported by the “Maker Movement” – and prevailing work practices in industrial companies. While Makerspaces are often portrayed as open workshops, where democratized production is claimed to be possible, the paper especially discusses its limits and constraints when being integrated into business models. It demonstrates how the fusion of such work practices is organized by putting both Makerspace and industrial company into the focus.

The belief in democratized production at Makerspaces is often associated with communal access to technological tools and knowledge, as well as with a greater participation in manufacturing processes. Over the past few years, industrial companies from product development or the automobile industry have also started to integrate Makerspaces into their business models. By letting their employees create prototypes outside the company, Makerspaces seem to become a workplace, where actors can experiment with the idea of democratized work and production.

In this context, both industries and Makerspaces are confronted with work practices that are extremely decentralised, flexible and self-regulated by the respective actor using the Makerspace for commercial purposes. But these practices can also be challenged by the prospect of higher autonomy and democratization.

It is against this background that the paper aims at examining more closely the relationship between the two organizations. Supported by an interview study and ethnographic fieldwork, it will investigate how these new forms of work are actually organized. To what extent do they reorient business or innovation models? And how do they in the end respond to the potential of a greater democratization of work?