[Open Design + Hardware] opendesign Digest, Vol 44, Issue 2

Irene Maldini irene.maldini at gmail.com
Mon Mar 14 09:53:48 UTC 2016

Thank you for sharing Cindy! It looks very interesting.

2016-03-12 13:00 GMT+01:00 <opendesign-request at lists.okfn.org>:

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> Today's Topics:
>    1. my dissertation! (Kohtala Cindy)
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Message: 1
> Date: Sat, 12 Mar 2016 09:37:19 +0000
> From: Kohtala Cindy <cindy.kohtala at aalto.fi>
> To: Open Design and Hardware mailing list <opendesign at lists.okfn.org>
> Subject: [Open Design + Hardware] my dissertation!
> Message-ID: <CF41DD03-C7F3-4F93-9869-BB0011F6B60E at aalto.fi>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8"
> Hello all,
> I?m proud to announce my dissertation is available to download!
> https://shop.aalto.fi/p/872-making-sustainability/
> scroll down a bit for the link to the pdf.
> Prof Adrian Smith from SPRU, University of Sussex, was my opponent at
> yesterday?s defence.
> He was probing e.g. if Fab Labs are indeed a good observation unit and,
> based on my findings, Fab Labs are actually conservative in how they work
> with sustainability solutions, not to mention catering to a select elite,
> and therefore perhaps not the ideal partners if we want sustainability
> transition. He also wished for more discussion in my thesis on the wider
> implications - setting the discussion within the broader societal context.
> From my part, I argued that Fab Labs are worth specific study because they
> differ from other makerspaces, being more in communication with each other,
> having the Fab Academy and Fabx meetings, etc. They have potential,
> therefore, to build and spread a more sustainability-oriented agenda if
> this was done with more critical discussion and conscious reflection (than
> is done now). (I suspect my answer was not as concise yesterday as when I?m
> writing it now.) ;)
> I do agree that the broader implications need to be articulated, but I
> argued that I could not do that in the scope of my dissertation. I had
> decided to limit my scope and especially focus on the task of describing
> and interpreting the details of what actually goes on in Fab Labs on a
> daily basis, as there is very little on this published yet. Based on this
> detailed knowledge, we can go forward to discuss wider implications, how
> this sits in the wider context of today (and yesterday), and what this
> might mean in terms of policy.
> I argued there is still great potential for Fab Labs to have a role in
> pushing the discussion on *values* and the meaning of consumption and
> post-consumption - this might be their greatest potential contribution. I
> see Fab Labs as the potential gateway drug to other kinds of making,
> encouraging participation not only in understanding and building
> technologies for prototyping, but sustainable solutions of all kinds.
> People see that it is possible and desireable to become more involved in
> things. Openness and p2p dynamics play a key role in this.
> I must admit - saying this is more me as an
> activist-participant-researcher and less me as researcher-proper. As Adrian
> pointed out, it is important to see where and how Fab Labs and makerspaces
> *are* actually engaging people who might otherwise not have become involved.
> I was able to point out a couple of promising examples where this has
> occurred during my observations, but I have not yet examined this question
> systematically. (thank dog for post-docs!) ;)
> It was truly an engaging discussion, due to Adrian?s making it a relaxed
> yet critical debate, and some audience members also said they found it
> interesting. (I always wonder what people get out of dissertation defences
> when they don?t have an invested interest in the topic. In Finland, these
> defences are open to the public so all my colleagues were there, family
> members, interested others.)
> Feel free to browse through the pdf and make comments on anything you find
> interesting or disagree with!
> Regards from Helsinki
> Cindy
> Aalto University
> The full abstract:
> Digital manufacturing technologies are proliferating and can enable
> socially significant, innovative new forms of production and consumption.
> This thesis examines the environmental sustainability issues in peer
> production and how they are addressed in Fab Labs (fabrication
> laboratories): shared spaces where users can design and make their own
> artefacts outside of conventional mass production channels, using, for
> example, laser cutters, 3D printers and electronics stations. Fab Labs are
> open to members of the general public, who learn to use the equipment
> themselves and are encouraged (or required) to document and openly share
> their projects. ?Making? in Fab Labs and the ?maker movement? are often
> endorsed by proponents as a better alternative to mass consumption and
> consumerism, whether through enhancing skills to build and repair,
> answering one?s own needs as opposed to ?satisficing? through passive
> consumption, or distributing production within local networks as opposed to
> long, tr
>  ansport-intensive and large-volume supply chains. However, Fab Labs and
> makerspaces are contexts rife with paradox and complexity concerning
> appropriate use of materials and energy. Little empirical research on
> material peer production currently exists, and the environmental impacts,
> and benefits, of digital fabrication are largely unknown.
> Primarily through ethnographic research methods and Symbolic
> Interactionist analysis, the thesis examines daily practices and discourses
> in selected Fab Labs and how sustainability is represented in these
> communities. The findings articulate how the actors? interactions,
> expressed intents and contextual conditions serve to shape the Fab Lab. The
> key finding is the conflict actors encounter between ? on the one hand ?
> setting ambitions, promoting particular ideologies and espousing
> sustainability-oriented values, and ? on the other hand ? realizing and
> enacting these values in the mundane and constraining routines of everyday
> practice. Even actors with a clear ecological mandate struggle to engage
> with emerging sustainability issues in a rapidly changing sociotechnical
> environment. Present topics of concern and everyday tasks overshadow future
> strategy and vision work as well as engagement with environmental issues
> and rapid technology developments. However, actors who consciously and
>   visibly strive to enact the espoused Fab Lab ideology, i.e. offering
> access to empowering, distributed technologies that enable people to meet
> their own local needs by design, appear better able to identify and tackle
> the environmental sustainability issues as they arise. Environmental issues
> are also intertwined with and embedded in other ideological concerns, but
> they are rarely promoted in their own right.
> The thesis also details the current landscape of research literature on
> distributed production, who is studying these environmental issues and how,
> and the potential opportunities and threats in this new mode of production.
> The thesis thereby contributes to research on peer production communities,
> social shaping of technology and sustainable design. Knowledge of current
> maker practices and their sustainability implications have value for the
> peer communities studied, but also potentially technology developers and
> policy makers. As Fab Labs are experimental spaces for new digital
> manufacturing capabilities and activities, the wider implications of the
> findings may indicate how increasing digitalization and citizen involvement
> in production will transform design and production ? and the sustainability
> implications therein.
> Keywords: Fab Labs, environmental sustainability, digital fabrication,
> distributed production, peer production
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> End of opendesign Digest, Vol 44, Issue 2
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*Irene Maldini*
+31 0650451478
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