Silvia Lindtner is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan in the School of Information, with affiliations in the Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies and the Science, Technology and Society Program. Together with Anna Greenspan (NYU SH) and David Li (XinCheJian), Silvia co-founded the Research Initiative Hacked Matter, dedicated to critically investigating processes of technology innovation, urban redesign, and maker-manufacturing cultures in China.

Her research investigates the role digital technologies play in global processes of innovation, work and labor, as sites of expressions of selfhood and collectivity, and in relation to political, social and economic processes of urban redesign. She explores these themes through a contemporary research project; DIY (do it yourself) maker and hacker culture, with a particular focus on its intersections with manufacturing and creative industry development in China.  Her work is published across the fields of digital media and information studies, cultural anthropology, China studies, science and technology studies, human-computer interaction, and computer supported cooperative work. Lindtner is the recipient of a grant by the National Science Foundation, supporting her research on maker and hacker cultures in China and the United States.  In additional, her work has been supported by the Michigan-Fudan Social Science Collaboration, Chinese National Natural Science Foundation, two Intel Research grants, a Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship, and a Chinese Government Scholarship.

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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.

Together with my collaborator Xianghua Ding, I received a Michigan-Fudan Social Science Collaboration Grant 2014/15 from the Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies for our collaborative research on making and hacking practices out of necessity in China (including such things as shanzhai culture, repair work, manufacturing, making-do, etc.).

In December 2013, I spoke 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.


Travel & Talks:

July 31-Aug 2, 2015: Participating and present ingat Sketching in Hardware 2015 "Utopias", at Biosphere2, Arizona.

May 7, 2015: I was visiting the IxD Lab at ITU in Copenhagen. Many thanks to Anna Vallgårda for the invitation. 

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In April, I gave a talk at the 2015 ACM CHI conference in Seoul, Korea, based on an HCI Journal Article I wrote with Amanda Williams, ken anderson and Paul Dourish: "Multi-sited Design: An Analytical Lens for Transnational HCI" If you are at CHI, come and stop by!: Wednesday, April 22, 11:30-12:50, Room 308. 

February 17, 2015, I was invited to give a talk at the "In the Loop" series of the IIT Institute of Design's lecture series on design, innovation, and entrepreneurship, organized by Assistant Professor Laura Forlano in cooperation with the ID Faculty. My talk was on: "Hacking with Chinese Characteristics: The Making of a Powerful Vision of Change."

January 22, 2015: FH JOANNEUM & ESC Medien Kunst Labor Graz, Austria, Guest Lecture: "Making, Shanzhai & Manufacturing", many thanks to Reni Hofmüller, Daniel Fabry, and the School of Communication, Media and Interaction Design (FH JOANNEUM)

Atlantic Article

With Anna Greenspan and David Li: Shanzhai: China's Collaborative Electronics-Design Ecosystem

Gongban - public board for a smart watch. China's version of open source.

The article discusses shanzhai innovation, visions of computing, and open source in manufacturing.

Blog Post for Ethnography Matters:

with Amelia Guimarin.

Making! The Other Story: Robot#10, Twins Separated at Birth, and Hacker Mama

Article for Slate

This Manufacturing Hub is also become the Center of Chinese Creativity.

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, 2014, 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 Workshop 2013

The workshop took place in conjunction with the 2013 Shanghai Maker Carnival at the KIC Knowledge Innovation Center. It explored the role that China is playing in the visions and practices of contemporary 'maker' culture, with a particular focus on how maker culture meets manufacturing, and the role of future visions in maker productions.




New Article in Science, technology & human values journal: "Hacking with Chinese Characteristics"

So excited this piece is finally out! Based on my long-term ethnographic research in China, I trace back to the early days of China's maker movement, from the opening of China's first hackerspace XinCheJian 新车间 back in 2010 to contemporary intersections with manufacturing, entrepreneurship, and innovation discourse. [PDF]

new paper, aarhus conference on critical alternatives: 

Our paper on "Designed in Shenzhen: Shanzhai Manufacturers and Maker Entrepreneurs" (with Anna Greenspan and David Li) got accepted to the Aarhus Conference 2015 on "Critical Alternatives" - we are extra proud to be presenting at this decennial conference and to be joining a fabulous line-up of critical scholarship of computing!


Our CSCW 2015 paper "Reliving the Past & Making a Harmonious Society Today: A Study of Elderly Electronic Hackers in China" has been awarded a best paper award. Big congratulations to my mentee Yuling Sun, whose excellent ethnographic research this paper is based on.

New article in the Journal of China Information:

"Hackerspaces and Internet of Things in China"   

ACM CHI Conference PAPER: 

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.