Silvia Lindtner is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan in the School of Information. She researches, writes and teaches about DIY (do-it-yourself) maker culture, with a particular focus on its intersections with manufacturing and industry development in China. Drawing on her background in interaction design and media studies, she merges ethnographic methods with approaches in design and making. This allows her to provide deep insights into emerging cultures of technology production and use, from a sociological and technological perspective.
Together with Anna Greenspan (NYU SH) and David Li (XinCheJian), Silvia Lindtner is also the co-founder of the Research Initiative Hacked Matter. Hacked Matter has since its inception in 2011 organized a series of workshops, lectures, public panel discussions as well as hands-on engagements with questions of DIY making, manufacturing, and innovation ecosystems. More here.
silvia [dot] lindtner [at] gmail [dot] com
News! NSF Award
I am PI with Garnet Hertz as Co-Pi on an exciting new project funded by the National Science Foundation, titled "How Do-It-Yourself Makers are Reinventing Production, Labor, and Innovation" (2013-2016). Here's an overview: The contemporary landscape of information technology production is one that has been profoundly influenced by the emergence of so-called 'maker culture' since the 1960s and 1970s, with the technology landscape full of products that depend upon open source and similar alternative models of production. Society currently finds itself in the middle of a new maker movement through a growing network of 'hackerspaces' or 'makerspaces' that expand ideas and practices of the Web generation into hardware and manufacturing. Hackerpaces are cooperative studios where people develop new approaches to technology design based on the open sharing of software code and hardware designs through the use of technology such as computer controlled laser cutters, 3-D printers, and microcontroller kits. Hackerpaces are places where new models of innovation are explored, where values of openness and participation are re-assessed, and where new relationships between people and technology are forged. To understand these phenomena, this NSF-funded project will conduct one of the first multinational ethnographic research studies of hackerpaces in the United States and China. The goal of the project is to understand the relationship between cultural and material practices in the maker movement. Accordingly, the focus is on the daily practices in makerspaces, with particular attention to how they experiment with models of social organization, distributed collaboration, and peer production.
I spoke earlier in December 2013 at the DOIT Open Innovations Festival in Taipei. Above is the video of my talk.
ABOUT DOIT: Taipei 2013 DOIT Open Innovations Festival The annual event aims to stimulate exchanges between creative minds from around the world, promoting greater cooperation through linking to the outside world. DOIT Annual Event 2013 highlights Digital Fabrication, Social Network Business Model（social product）, Wearable Device and Application Solution, and Innovation System with the spirit of encouraging openness, co-creation, and innovation.
Check out the article I wrote recently together with Anna Greenspan and David Li for the Atlantic Shanzhai: China's Collaborative Electronics-Design Ecosystem
The article discusses shanzhai innovation, visions of computing, and open source in manufacturing.
Blog Post for Ethnography Matters:
with Amelia Guimarin.
Check out the video we produced for the blog post as part of our documentary film project about China's shanzhai:
Article for Slate
A piece about "innovate with China," Shenzhen, Seeed Studio and its CEO and founder Eric Pan. It begins like this:
The 30-year-old city of Shenzhen, which is in the southern region of China, is typically thought of as a place where copycat and large factories pump out products designed elsewhere. While Silicon Valley is heralded as the site of unparalleled technological creativity, China is rendered as its unimaginative counterpart: Silicon Valley comes up with the ideas and China manufacturers them. The evidence of this approach towards innovation is emblazoned on the iPhone: “Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China.”
But in Shenzhen, there is a company at the forefront of changing this idea that “made in” inherently stands for China and “created in” inherently for California.
NYC Resistor Zine
From January 18-19, Garnet Hertz and I hosted a zine-making workshop at the NYC Resistor Hackerspace. Check our the awesome zine that the resistors made with us in the video below and photos here.
Hacked Matter Part 2
Our video from our most recent Hacked Matter workshop in Shanghai is out:
Two New Articles:
Journal of China Information:
CHI PAPER: "Emerging Sites of HCI Innovation"
Our paper "Emerging Sites of HCI Innovation: Hackerspaces, Hardware Startups & Incubators" with Garnet Hertz and Paul Dourish has been selected to receive a SIGCHI Best of CHI best paper award! It is published as part of the proceedings of the ACM Conference CHI'14. [pdf]
Abstract: In this paper, we discuss how a flourishing scene of “DIY makers” is turning visions of tangible, mobile and ubiquitous computing into products. Drawing on long-term multi-sited ethnographic research and active participation in DIY maker practice, we will provide insights into the social, material, and economic processes that undergird this transition from prototypes to products. The contribution of this paper is three-fold. First, we will show how DIY maker practice is illustrative of a broader “return to” and interest in physical
materials. This has implications for HCI research that
investigates questions of materiality. Second, we shed light
on how hackerspaces and hardware start-ups are
experimenting with new models of manufacturing and
entrepreneurship. We argue that we have to take seriously
these maker practices, not just as hobbyist or leisure
practice, but as a professionalizing field functioning in
parallel to research and industry labs. Finally, we end with
reflections on the role of HCI researchers and designers as
DIY making emerges as a site of HCI innovation. We argue
that HCI is positioned to provide critical reflection, paired
with a sensibility for materials, tools and design methods.
New Article: "Making Subjectivities"
Excited to share the news that my article on "Making Subjectivities: How China's DIY Makers remake industrial production, innovation & the self" got accepted to the special issue on Polititical Contestation in Chinese Digital Spaces" (ed. Guobin Yang) of the Journal of China Information.
Abstract: This article shows how the visions and practices of DIY (do-it-yourself) maker culture are taken up in China. It analyzes how maker ideals of open-ness, resourcefulness and individual empowerment are formulated in relation to China’s project of building a creative society and economy. To demonstrate, Lindtner draws from long-term ethnographic research, including the set-up of China’s first hackerspace and the proliferation of hackerspaces, maker events, and partnerships between makers and manufacturers. China’s makers are driven to remake what creativity and industrial production mean today, simultaneously exploiting and challenging political rhetoric. By setting up hackerspaces, designing open technologies and starting up businesses, they craft alternative subject positions, for themselves and others. The contribution of this work is three-fold. First, it fills a gap in prior research by providing an account of a culture of technology production. Second, it proposes the analytical lens of “making subjectivities” to open up the concept of the netizen, illustrating the importance for Chinese Internet research to consider not only technology use, but also the culture and materials of its production. Third, it demonstrates that makers alter the system from within, contributing to our understanding of the relationship between technology use, production, society, activism and the state.