"I have so little time [...] I got shit I need to do": critical perspectives on making and sharing in Manchester's FabLab

Jennifer Johns, Sarah Marie Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

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This paper argues for rethinking economic geographical of sharing and making in light of the recent proliferation of open innovation, makerspaces and maker movements. Using empirical research from an example of one such makerspace - Manchester's FabLab - and engaging with a range of geographical literatures on making, sharing economies, and digital fabrication, we develop a critical account of sharing in principle and in practice. The portrayal of open innovation spaces, such as FabLabs, as novel makerspaces of alterity and sharing is a common and underpinning theme in both academic and marketing literature (Aldrich, 2014; Anderson, 2012; Doherty, 2012, Gershenfeld, 2005; Fab Foundation 2012; Suire, 2019). However, our findings suggest that the values espoused by the FabLab, of involvement, connection and affinity are quite literally being revised and rejected by makers who use the space. Time, labour and knowledge were for the most part described by participants as precious commodities to be savoured rather than shared. Thus, while sharing is an ordinarily economic practice, this does not mean it is always, inevitably or evenly employed by economic actors and communities, especially within counter-cultural networks. If these are to be the economies of the future, we implore economic geographers to critically engage further with the complexities of and within maker spaces.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Early online date10 Feb 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Feb 2020

Structured keywords

  • MGMT theme Global Political Economy
  • MGMT International Business Management and Strategy


  • sharing economies
  • making
  • makerspaces
  • FabLab
  • Manchester

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