The Sociomateriality of FabLabs: Configurations of a Printing Service or Counter-Context?

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FabLabs can be studied as a technology- and product-oriented movement. In this study we review material objects in European FabLabs as sociomateriality that represents and embodies the ways FabLabs are institutionalising. This refers to FabLabs’ relationships with incumbent institutions and how they impact the formation of norms and routines internally. Labs may adopt procedures familiar in mainstream organisations, borrowing from formal institutions in a quest for public inclusion and mainstream legitimacy, or they may seek to innovate in organisational structure, establishing themselves as informal institutions to maintain their counter-culture identity. Examining sociomateriality helps make visible how Labs manage the contradiction between 'openness' and recruitment of allies, and maintaining alterity. The studied FabLabs' institutionalising processes are ongoing, performative and heterogeneous, encompassing mixed tactics oriented towards both public inclusion (commodification and conforming) and counter-culture (reconstitution and transforming). We also propose that analysis conducted through three types of objects, work, knowledge and imaginative objects, provides a more articulated account of the tensions in material peer production.


Original languageEnglish
Article number5
Pages (from-to)92-110
Number of pages19
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

    Research areas

  • Fab Labs, sociomateriality, SUSTAINABILITY, STS, ethnography, institutionalization, design, technology

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