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’Placeless’ making? Reframing the power-geometries of digital platforms in China through tactical co-creation

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Abstract

What happens when makers, or people who use tools to hack, remix and create things, interact on virtual or 'placeless' rather than physical or 'locally situated' spaces? What happens when they encounter other digital actors – the kind who want to control them? This article is about 數據線 Shùjùxiàn, or 'drinking from the data line', a creative experiment with digital makers in China that was inspired by Furtherfield's DIWO (Do It With Others) call in 2006 for decentralized endeavours that would disrupt hierarchies through networked collaborations. By engaging in 'placeless making', projects like Shùjùxiàn attempt to playfully subvert censorship algorithms through co-creation.
258 THE CRITICAL MAKERS READER
‘Placeless’ Making?
Rearticulating the
Power-Geometries of
Digital Platforms
in China Through
Tactical Co-Creation
Kat Braybrooke
259
MAKING SPACES: LABS, INSTITUTIONS, AND AUTONOMOUS ZONES
'PLACELESS' MAKING? REARTICULATING THE
POWER-GEOMETRIES OF DIGITAL PLATFORMS IN
CHINA THROUGH TACTICAL CO-CREATION
KAT BRAYBROOKE
Fig. 1. Anonymous makers involved in this project and Kat Braybrooke, Shùjùxiàn sticker
artworks that use WeChat to experiment with 'placeless making', screenshot, 2018.1
What happens when makers, or people who use tools2 to hack, remix and create things,
interact on virtual or 'placeless' rather than physical or 'locally situated' spaces? What
happens when they encounter other digital actors – the kind who want to control them?
In China, internet surveillance is an everyday reality. Through an assemblage of tools
referred to as 'The Great Firewall', the government monitors, classifies and censors the
digital interactions of its 1.4 billion citizens. This reality is by no means limited to China,
however. As governments and corporations alike realize the potentials of these technolo-
gies, internet censorship increasingly affects our digital experiences in many other places.
This article is about 數據線 Shùjùxiàn, or 'drinking from the data line', a creative exper-
iment with digital makers in China that was inspired by Furtherfield's DIWO (Do It With
Others) call in 2006 for decentralized endeavours that would disrupt hierarchies through
networked collaborations.3 By engaging in 'placeless making', projects like Shùjùxiàn
attempt to playfully subvert censorship algorithms through co-creation.
1 Reprinted with permission of collaborators.
2 While makers use a variety of tools, from woodworking equipment to craft materials to advanced
technologies like virtual reality headsets, to learn and create through material engagement, here I
refer to 'digital making', which uses digital tools and platforms.
3 'DIWO - Do It With Others', Furtherfield, 2015, http://archive.furtherfield.org/projects/diwo-do-it-
others-resource.
260 THE CRITICAL MAKERS READER
Introducing Placeless Making
As place becomes more important to platforms, so does placelessness. By 'placeless making',
I refer to tactical projects that refuse to situate themselves, or situate themselves only tem-
porarily, within any place. Placeless making explores making as a conceptual and technical
practice4 and as a politics of material participation,5 supplanting local limitations with global
networks of producers. In doing so, placeless making aims to enable alternative spatial con-
figurations through material engagement.
From locally-situated hackerspaces, makerspaces and fab labs to the decentralized digital
platforms in China, digital makers work in many different kinds of spaces. By engaging with
these diverse arrangements, Shùjùxiàn aimed to explore whether placeless making could fos-
ter the kind of 'simultaneity of social practices without territorial contiguity' that Manuel Castells
first referred to in 19996 when he spoke about the possibilities of renegotiating global 'spaces
of flow'.7 Shùjùxiàn opens up these possibilities by turning the geotagged environments of
corporately-owned platforms like Instagram and WeChat into 'temporary autonomous zones'8
for new modalities of co-creation.
It is important to emphasize here that engagements with digital platforms do not necessar-
ily make it easy for the bodies of makers to transcend space and time – despite what the
consensual dreams of cyberspace once promised us. Over and over again, we have seen
how claims of digital emancipation are all too easily contested. In our current moment, place
matters more, not less. We live in a 'new dark age', where nation-states increasingly capitalize
on transnational networks of code, information, media and data – the very 'spaces of flow'
referred to by Castells – in order to entrench their domination.9 The politics of digital infor-
mation, meanwhile, increasingly augment our spatial experiences. Sliced into digital layers,
the stratified representations of local geographies on platforms like Google Maps critically
influence how we understand and interact with places.10
4 Matt Ratto, 'Critical Making: Conceptual and Material Studies in Technology and Social Life', The
Information Society 27, no. 4 (1 July 2011): pp. 252-260, https://doi.org/10.1080/01972243.2011.583819.
5 Garnet Hertz, Critical Making - Hertz, Hollywood: Telharmonium Press, 2012, http://www.conceptlab.
com/criticalmaking/.
6 Manuel Castells, 'Grassrooting the Space of Flows', Urban Geography 20, no. 4 (1 May 1999): p. 294.
7 Here a 'space of flows' is used to describe how the places of a space are articulated by networks of
individuals, groups, software and hardware, who configure the spatial structures associated with flows
of information according to their needs, as proposed by Manuel Castells, The Network Society: A Cross-
Cultural Perspective, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2004, p. 30. The value of this concept is
that in configuration, there lies a possibility for reconfiguration.
8 Hakim Bey, T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism, Brooklyn:
Autonomedia, 1985, https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/hakim-bey-t-a-z-the-temporary-autonomous-
zone-ontological-anarchy-poetic-terrorism; Simon Sellars, 'Hakim Bey: Repopulating the Temporary
Autonomous Zone', Journal for the Study of Radicalism 4, no. 2 (2010): pp. 83-108.
9 James Bridle, New Dark Age: Technology, Knowledge and the End of the Future, London: Verso, 2018;
Matthew Fuller and Andrew Goffey, Evil Media, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012.
10 Mark Graham and Matthew Zook, 'Augmented Realities and Uneven Geographies: Exploring the
Geolinguistic Contours of the Web', Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space 45, no. 1 (1
January 2013): pp. 77-99.
261
MAKING SPACES: LABS, INSTITUTIONS, AND AUTONOMOUS ZONES
Tactical Evasions, New Possibilities
Despite these realities, there are still opportunities to playfully 'hack' the flows of hegemonic
platforms by rearticulating the logics of their creators. By refusing to locate interactions in any
one place unless absolutely necessary, placeless making projects carry the potential, however
nebulous, to challenge the entrapments of digital platforms. As the work of Zach Blas11 reminds
us, and Michel Foucault12 before him, surveillance states have always attempted to utilize the
newest technologies to identify, control and dominate their subjects. However, these dominations
are contested by what Blas refers to as acts of 'informatic opacity',13 tactical evasions seen in the
creative endeavours of myriad groups from Pussy Riot to the Zapatistas, who experiment with visi-
bility through 'carnivalesque refusal[s] of capture and recognition'.14 Resistance inevitably persists.
By tapping into the legacies of these traditions, placeless making can subvert the dominant
discourses of the spaces where they are located. Placeless makers can engage with two realms
of possibility in particular.
First, placeless makers can decolonize the local hegemonies of global proprietary platforms by
finding ways to exploit their 'hidden affordances',15 or uses that are not apparent. Here, the stated
intentions of platforms, and their embedded geolocational features, are creatively subverted to
address other kinds of spatially heterogeneous needs. In her analysis of the media production of
Black Lives Matter activists in America, for example, Chenjerai Kumanyika has discussed how
informal groups of citizen journalists used mobile phone cameras and platforms like Facebook to
explore the aesthetics of livestreaming practices in spaces of conflict.16 By deliberately geolocating
their own livestreams during protests, these portrayals provided an alternative to mainstream
news coverage. This strategy fostered solidarity amongst international networks of protesters, but
crucially it also enabled the exploitation of more vulnerable streamers by the media conglomerates
and platforms they interacted with.
Second, placeless making can challenge the usual Western universalist assumptions17 of what
'making' itself constitutes by enabling exchanges between different kinds of makers working
across and beyond the local limitations and spaces of difference, from jugaad makers in India
11 'Informatic Opacity', The Journal of Aesthetics and Protest, no. 9 (2014), http://www.joaap.org/issue9/
zachblas.htm; Zach Blas, 'Opacities: An Introduction', Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture, and Media
Studies 31, no. 2 (1 September 2016): pp. 149-153.
12 Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, trans. Philip Howard, New York: Vintage
Books, 1988; Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: Pantheon, 1977.
13 Blas defines this as actions aimed at resisting state identity politics through acts of escape and opacity.
14 Blas, 'Informatic Opacity'.
15 Adrienne Shaw, 'Encoding and Decoding Affordances: Stuart Hall and Interactive Media Technologies',
Media, Culture & Society 39, no. 4 (1 May 2017): pp. 592-602, https://doi.org/10.1177/0163443717692741.
16 Chenjerai Kumanyika, 'Livestreaming in the Black Lives Matter Network', in Amber Day (ed) DIY Utopia:
Cultural Imagination and the Remaking of the Possible, Minneapolis: Lexington Books, 2016, pp. 169-89.
17 Elsewhere, I discuss with Tim Jordan the diffusion of globally heterogeneous making practices into a
technomyth that claims they originated from a so-called American 'Maker Movement' in: Kat Braybrooke
and Tim Jordan, 'Genealogy, Culture and Technomyth: Decolonizing Western Information Technologies,
from Open Source to the Maker Movement', Digital Culture & Society 3, no. 1 (2017): pp. 25-46.
262 THE CRITICAL MAKERS READER
to shanzaii copyleft makers in China.18 The hacktivists of groups like the decentralized
Anonymous collective, for example, typically prefer their practices to remain placeless.
In the mid 2000s, however, several members of the AnonOps group chose to work with
local collectives of village elders, indigenous language experts, and educators in rural
regions of Peru to subvert the 'techno-fundamentalist' one-size-fits-all software of MIT's
One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) laptops that had been deployed in local schools. Anita
Say Chan has described how these temporary transnational collaborations enabled the
laptops to be 'rescripted' so that they could finally be suitable for the local contexts and
languages of students.19
The Limits of Placelessness
In making projects of this kind, the spatial interactions between individuals remain
defined by the limitations of the bounded territories within which their bodies and
national identities are located. An AnonOps hacktivist may be able to transcend her
usual spatiality by locating herself temporarily in rural Peru, but that does not mean her
Peruvian collaborators share the same freedoms. If she finds herself on the wrong side
of Peruvian laws, meanwhile, she may all too quickly lose her ability to build temporary
autonomous zones across the spaces of the digital platforms she engages with.
One way of articulating these limits is through the geographer Doreen Massey's notion of
space as an 'ongoing production'20 that is both material and abstract in form, emerging
dynamically from the interactions of multiple individuals, processes and histories. This allows
the many places that make up a space to be viewed as overlapping 'envelopes of space-
time'21 that are variably articulated and perceived by different people at different moments
in time according to the 'power-geometries', or social differentiations of mobility, agency
and access,22 that inevitably accompany their interactions with digitally-mediated spaces.
As we have seen in the examples above, these power-geometries, while often unseen,
determine the affordances of those who engage with them according to spatial circum-
stances which are out of their control. By engaging tactically with these concepts through
material engagement, placeless making is one of many efforts to negotiate this.
18 Braybrooke and Jordan, 'Genealogy, Culture and Technomyth' ; Padmini Ray Murray and Chris Hand,
'Making Culture: Locating the Digital Humanities in India', Visible Language Journal, no. 172 (2013),
http://visiblelanguagejournal.com/issue/172/article/1222.
19 Anita Chan, Networking Peripheries: Technological Futures and the Myth of Digital Universalism,
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013.
20 Doreen Massey, For Space, Thousand Oaks: Sage Publishing, 2005, pp. 55.
21 Doreen Massey, Space, Place, and Gender, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994, p. 5.
22 Doreen Massey, 'Power-Geometry and a Progressive Sense of Place', in John Bird, Barry Curtis,
Tim Putnam and Lisa Tickner (eds) Mapping the Futures: Local Cultures, Global Change, London:
Routledge, 1993, pp. 59-69; Doreen Massey, 'Vocabularies of the Economy', Soundings 54, no. 54 (22
July 2013): pp. 9-22.
263
MAKING SPACES: LABS, INSTITUTIONS, AND AUTONOMOUS ZONES
WeChat Stickers: A New Mode of Digital Making
I couldn't help but be preoccupied with these kinds of concerns while part of a research
project that engaged with different kinds of maker communities in Xi'an and Chengdu, China,
where the nation's dominant digital chat platform, WeChat, recently hit 1 billion monthly users.
WeChat at first looks like WhatsApp and other chat services used in the West, but its inclusion
of many additional functions, including e-governance and finance features, means it acts
more like Facebook, Snapchat, a bank, and a national identification system, all rolled into one.
WeChat's group chat rooms, meanwhile, which can have up to 500 users, are utilized heavily by
communities of makers, who create locally situated spaces for making by sharing code, designs
and events. One maker I spoke to showed me how she had created two separate WeChat user
accounts for herself once she hit the maximum groups per user, so that she could remain active
in the 8,000 maker, craft and business groups she was a part of. Another maker explained
that for him, 'WeChat is not just chatting software, it is community [...] I cannot live without it'.
It is no secret in China that the platforms that have not already been banned by its Great
Firewall are typically those which have been sanctioned by the Party. WeChat in particular is
known for its strict regulatory environment,23 which continues to foster suspicions that its con-
tent may be monitored. According to Citizen Lab reports in 2016 and 2018, over 170 phrases
(such as the keywords for 'student democracy movement') trigger immediate censorship, with
more added dynamically from emerging news.24 In addition, the reports demonstrate that
visual algorithms are now being used to filter certain images.25
Revelations about WeChat's surveillance tactics, however, have not yet dampened the playful
acts of digital making which have produced the platform's most chaotic, strange, and wonder-
ful aesthetic outputs: Biaoqing, or stickers. These are customized GIFs and images that have
been digitally created, remixed and then exchanged by more than 90% of WeChat users in
order to disseminate memes, jokes and personal statements amongst their networks.26 Many
of these stickers are spread virally, appearing as crude illustrations and hastily Photoshopped
images and ranging from 'Kim Kardashian getting thrown into a toilet' to 'testicle man', also
known as 'Eunuch playing eggs'.
23 Citizen Lab has explained that the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) tightened its regulation of
WeChat in 2014 with the 'WeChat ten doctrines' which consolidated government content control over
user activities.
24 Lotus Ruan et al., 'One App, Two Systems: How WeChat Uses One Censorship Policy in China and
Another Internationally' (Citizen Lab, December 1, 2016), https://citizenlab.ca/2016/11/wechat-china-
censorship-one-app-two-systems/.
25 Jeremy Knockel et al., '(Can't) Picture This: An Analysis of Image Filtering on WeChat Moments' (Citizen
Lab, August 14, 2018), https://citizenlab.ca/2018/08/cant-picture-this-an-analysis-of-image-filtering-on-
wechat-moments/.
26 'Chinese Netizen Expression Report', Tencent, 2014, https://data.qq.com//article?id=2507.
264 THE CRITICAL MAKERS READER
Fig. 2. Anonymous makers involved in this project and Kat Braybrooke, typical remixes of a
reaction sticker on WeChat commonly referred to as 'mushroomboy head'. Statements include
'I surrender; your posing is too impressive', to 'poverty limits my imagination', 'let's go, mantis
shrimp!', and 'stop typing, use more images', screenshot, 2018.
As Zeng Yuli has shown, the power to create and distribute stickers lies in the hands of WeChat
users themselves.27 Because of this, they have come to represent qualities of decentralization,
individuality and irreverence – especially amongst young people. By providing a new generation
with opportunities to express themselves as digital makers for the first time through the production
of these small media artifacts, a unique aesthetic is being fostered, one which ever so slightly
challenges centralized ideologies through the irreverent discourse of 'icons thick with meaning'.28
Shùjùxiàn: Drinking from the data line
To examine the possibilities for subversion embedded in the process of creating WeChat
stickers, Shùjùxiàn aimed to explore whether the power-geometries or differentiations of
agency, access and mobility that defined the 'particular envelopes of space-time'29 experi-
enced by Chinese makers could start to be rearticulated, or at least challenged, through the
27 Zeng Yuli,'Why Young Chinese Are so Crazy about Online Sticker Sets', Sixth Tone, 5 September 2017,
https://www.sixthtone.com/news/1000812/why-young-chinese-are-so-crazy-about-online-sticker-sets.
28 Christina Xu, 'A Field Guide to China's Most Indispensible Meme', Motherboard , 1 August 2016,
https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/bmvd74/china-meme-face-a-biaoqing-field-guide.
29 Massey, Space, Place, and Gender, p. 5.
265
MAKING SPACES: LABS, INSTITUTIONS, AND AUTONOMOUS ZONES
tactical practices of placeless making. While our interactions would, by necessity, be stratified
according to our locations, I wanted to see whether there was a way to harness the possibilities
of Blas' informatic opacity to enable a critical making discourse that did not violate the rules
of WeChat censorship algorithms.
After testing out various creative anti-tracking tactics with the help of makers based in the
U.K, the decision was made to create a set of six collaborative artworks. Each artwork would
be generated from a combination of free or open source apps where possible, in order to see
how difficult it would be to enable a sense of playfully muddled placelessness by manipulating
the spaces of WeChat without using advanced tools. Our Chinese collaborators discussed how
most young people had long suspected their chats were individually monitored, and therefore
already self-censored their digital interactions. 'I know it sounds funny', they added, 'to say this,
because we do not even know what they can and cannot hear. What if they do not hear at all?'30
The project proceeded to engage in a series of lively and seemingly innocuous sticker exchanges
on WeChat with eight makers. These makers, who usually worked on physical fabrication or craft
projects at makerspaces across China, donated stickers that had been created by themselves and
others WeChat users. Each sticker conveyed – albeit in a non-explicit way – their thoughts on the
confusing nature of what digital surveillance could mean. The stickers were then converted into
MP4 video screen-grabs, and glitched using a variety of methods. From the screen-recording app
CamStudio to the hidden GIF-layering qualities of Instagram, these glitch processes produced
deliberately grainy – and some might argue, especially bad-quality – outputs. In doing so, the
aim was to make their contributor chains especially difficult to trace.
Fig. 3. Anonymous makers involved in this project and Kat Braybrooke, the initial sticker
exchanges of Shùjùxiàn are remixed using glitching apps, screenshot, 2018.31
30 Personal communication, February 2018.
31 Reprinted with permission of collaborators.
266 THE CRITICAL MAKERS READER
Conclusion: The Small Triumphs of Placeless Making
The result of the Shùjùxiàn process was six digital artifacts, produced collaboratively with eight
anonymous makers. In one co-creation, a maker's rendition of their own face was remixed
into a series of animated GIFs, including one where they eat a watermelon and then cry, and
one where they offer a heart with a fake smile, and then withhold it at the last minute. These
GIFs expressed, without using text, the mixed feelings they felt about their continued depen-
dence on WeChat. In another, a maker uses GIFs from children's films related to watching,
listening and hunting to exemplify the many forms that digital surveillance might take. These
largely wordless contributions remain uncensored in the sticker exchanges that continue
to proliferate across WeChat's interfaces, artifacts of a lively flow of information which the
artworks of Shùjùxiàn are now proudly a part of.
As a modest effort in experimenting with the tactical and playful practices of placeless mak-
ing, Shùjùxiàn allowed my collaborators and I to reimagine ourselves – even if only briefly
– as members of a temporary autonomous space where transnational co-creation could
persist on even the most tightly controlled digital platforms. While we were able to contest
the power-geometries of stratification that regulated the spatial freedoms of those involved
by confusing a few of its minor stewards – in this case, the algorithms that log and censor
user interactions on WeChat – I cannot claim that our creations amounted to anything more
transformative than that.
However, when the six digital artworks of Shùjùxiàn were featured at the Mozilla Festival in the
autumn of 2018 in London as part of its annual 'Artists Open Web' exhibit, eight unnamed
makers across China were silently incorporated into exactly the kind of decentralized commu-
nity of co-creators that had been envisioned by the DIWO movement in 2006. In their quiet
evasion of visibility, they too joined the ranks of many others who have creatively engaged in
carnivalesque pursuits of opacity – and will continue to do so – enabling new kinds of spatial
configurations and transgressions in their wake.
Acknowledgements
The author would like to express their gratitude to the young makers in the U.K. and in China
whom they spoke to, gained guidance from and co-created with throughout the Shùjùxiàn
process, including (but not limited to) the official WeChat bot of the First Emperor of Qin.
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Blas, Zach. 'Opacities: An Introduction', Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture, and Media Studies 31,
no. 2 (1 September 2016): pp. 149-53.
267
MAKING SPACES: LABS, INSTITUTIONS, AND AUTONOMOUS ZONES
Braybrooke, Kat, and Tim Jordan. 'Genealogy, Culture and Technomyth: Decolonizing Western
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Chan, Anita Say. Networking Peripheries: Technological Futures and the Myth of Digital Universalism,
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'Chinese Netizen Expression Report', Tencent, 2014, https://data.qq.com//article?id=2507.
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Pantheon, 1977.
Foucault, Michel. Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, trans. Philip
Howard. New York: Vintage Books, 1988.
Fuller, Matthew and Andrew Goffey. Evil Media, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012.
Furtherfield. 'DIWO – Do It With Others', 2015, http://archive.furtherfield.org/projects/diwo-do-it-
others-resource.
Graham, Mark, and Matthew Zook. 'Augmented Realities and Uneven Geographies: Exploring the
Geolinguistic Contours of the Web', Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space 45, no. 1 (1
January, 2013): pp. 77-99.
Hertz, Garnet. Critical Making, Hollywood: Telharmonium Press, 2012, http://www.conceptlab.
com/criticalmaking/.
Knockel, Jeremy, Lotus Ruan, Mashashi Crete-Nishihata, and Rob Diebert. '(Can't) Picture This: An
Analysis of Image Filtering on WeChat Moments', Citizen Lab, 14 August 2018, https://citizenlab.
ca/2018/08/cant-picture-this-an-analysis-of-image-filtering-on-wechat-moments/.
Kumanyika, Chenjerai. 'Livestreaming in the Black Lives Matter Network', in Amber Day (ed.) DIY
Utopia: Cultural Imagination and the Remaking of the Possible, Minneapolis: Lexington Books,
2016, pp. 169-189.
Massey, Doreen. For Space, Thousand Oaks: Sage Publishing, 2005.
Massey, Doreen. 'Power-Geometry and a Progressive Sense of Place', in John Bird, Barry Curtis,
Tim Putnam and Lisa Tickner (eds) Mapping the Futures: Local Cultures, Global Change, London:
Routledge, 1993, pp. 59-69.
Massey, Doreen. Space, Place, and Gender, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994.
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Murray, Padmini Ray and Chris Hand. 'Making Culture: Locating the Digital Humanities in India', Visi-
ble Language Journal, no. 172 (2013). http://visiblelanguagejournal.com/issue/172/article/1222.
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WeChat Uses One Censorship Policy in China and Another Internationally', Citizen Lab, 1 December
2016, https://citizenlab.ca/2016/11/wechat-china-censorship-one-app-two-systems/.
268 THE CRITICAL MAKERS READER
Sellars, Simon. 'Hakim Bey: Repopulating the Temporary Autonomous Zone', Journal for the Study of
Radicalism 4, no. 2 (2010): pp. 83-108.
Shaw, Adrienne. 'Encoding and Decoding Affordances: Stuart Hall and Interactive Media
Technologies', Media, Culture & Society 39, no. 4 (May 1, 2017): pp. 592-602, https://doi.
org/10.1177/0163443717692741.
Xu, Christina. 'A Field Guide to China's Most Indispensible Meme', Motherboard, 1 August 2016,
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Yuli, Zeng. 'Why Young Chinese Are so Crazy about Online Sticker Sets', Sixth Tone, 5 September 2017,
https://www.sixthtone.com/news/1000812/why-young-chinese-are-so-crazy-about-online-sticker-sets.
... Spaces for making and hacking in China, meanwhile, have long been associated with copyleft or 'shanzai' cultures of technological disobedience, as well as China's extensive history of digital fabrication as a mode of mass manufacturing (Arvidsson, 2020;Braybrooke, 2019;Lindtner & Li, 2012;). Makerspaces have more recently become a core focus of economic development for the national government, which has introduced policies that emphasize digital making as a way of transforming the next generation of Chinese young people into entrepreneurs to address concerns over future unemployment (Justice, 2012;Shea & Gu, 2018). ...
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... Spaces for making and hacking in China, meanwhile, have long been associated with copyleft or 'shanzai' cultures of technological disobedience, as well as China's extensive history of digital fabrication as a mode of mass manufacturing (Arvidsson, 2020;Braybrooke, 2019;Lindtner & Li, 2012;). Makerspaces have more recently become a core focus of economic development for the national government, which has introduced policies that emphasize digital making as a way of transforming the next generation of Chinese young people into entrepreneurs to address concerns over future unemployment (Justice, 2012;Shea & Gu, 2018). ...
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Makerspaces are open community workshops for peer production which provide people with technical tools and training to experiment with making, learning, and hands‐on participation around material cultures. These workshops come in a variety of forms, and they are called by many names, including shared machine shops, hackerspaces, fab labs, digital studios and many other labels – including makerspace, which we will use as an umbrella term to keep things simple. What they have in common, however, is a commitment to providing people with the skills and means needed to access versatile design and fabrication technologies, and to fostering communities that share an open and collaborative ethos regarding the possibilities that democratized design and fabrication technologies might offer personally, socially, economically, and culturally. In this chapter, we discuss the diverse dynamics of maker- spaces, and how encounters between makerspaces and institutional interests in particular are shaping what is possible. We also ask what is gained from the radical redistribution of prototyping capabilities in societies that makerspaces represent, and what is diminished.
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