MAKER: An Ethnography of Maker and Hacker Spaces Achieving Diverse Participation

TR Number
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

Some have hailed the emergence of maker spaces as an opportunity to broaden participation of underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, engaging participants in open, creative, and supportive spaces for learning and applying practical STEM knowledge. Others have questioned the potential of these spaces, as many maker and hacker spaces seem to be enacting certain norms that are more conducive to participation of white, male, middle-class, able-bodied hobbyists. Nonetheless, there are spaces noted for participation of homeless makers, women, people of color, and people with different kinds of abilities. This project considers how diverse maker spaces are conceived, constructed and operated to actively involve groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM, and collectively identify practices that can inform the design and operation of campus and community maker or hacker spaces that presently struggle to achieve diversity. The research employs ethnographic methods and Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) to characterize spaces in terms of their physical and linguistic artifacts. Here we report results from preliminary research examining online and published artifacts from our cohort of diverse maker spaces in preparation for direct observations beginning in summer 2017. Research questions explored through this first phase of the project include: (1) What practices and artifacts do participants in diverse maker and hacker spaces employ to establish and maintain environments that are diverse and inclusive? (2) What does the discourse in diverse maker and hacker spaces reveal about how meaning and value are co-constructed around identity, creativity, and the culture of production / the production of culture in engineering? (3) What best practices emerge from diverse maker and hacker spaces, and how can these translate to design or transformation of existing maker spaces on campuses and in communities?