Hackerspaces: Making The Maker Movement by Sarah R. Davies

The Blurb On The Back:

A new industrial revolution.  The age of making.  From bits to atoms.  Many people are excited by the possibilities offered by new fabrication technologies like 3D printers, and the ways in which they are being used in hacker and makerspaces.  But why is the power of hacking and making an idea whose time has come?

Hackerspaces: Making The Maker Movement takes the rise of the maker movement as its starting point.  Hacker and makerspaces, Fab Labs, and DIY bio spaces are emerging all over the world.  Based on a study of hacker and makerspaces across the US, this book explores cultures of hacking and making in the context of wider social changes, arguing that excitement about the maker movement is not just about the availability of new technologies, but the kind of citizens we are expected to be. 

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Sarah R Davies is Assistant Professor in the Department of Media, Cognition and Communication at the University of Copenhagen and in this fascinating and informative (if USA-centric) book she examines why people get involved in the maker/hacker movement, how the hacker/maker spaces are organised and run (including how exclusive/inclusive it is), the wider trends within the movement and how the movement considers itself against wider culture.

Davies does a strong job of setting out what the hacker/maker movement is and how broad a spectrum of activities it covers, coupled with the debate within the community about what it covers and how this can make some feel excluded.  The interviews that Davies and her research partner, Dave Conz (who died before the book was completed) provide real insights into how US maker/hacker communities view themselves and how that interacts with the moves to commercialise it (something that really fascinated me given that many of the respondents didn’t react the way I would have anticipated to it, even though they talked about the integrity of their groups and their projects).  What really comes through is the passion that participants have for their activities and how this can sometimes make them blind (particularly if they’re the majority white, male techy demographic) to the ways their activities and behaviour can exclude others.  The book is very US focused and I would have found it interesting for Davies to widen out her research into European groups (whose ethos and activities are mentioned but not explored in depth) – if not in this book, then in a follow-up work.

All in all though, this is a very readable book about a subject that has long interested me and I think anyone who wants to know more about hackers/makers could take a lot from it.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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