Ecosystems & posthuman networks

Ecosystems & posthuman networks: learning from the more than human, particularly in response to climate change, has never been more urgent. How is the posthuman addressed by art & design schools?

This research interrogates assumptions around sustainable, accessible, and commercial maker practices within the maker movement. Specifically, it challenges three understandings of maker practice as sustainable, accessible, and entrepreneurial by accounting for the more than human in networks of design – and by extension maker practice. This research reports on my analysis of a series of practice-based research experiments with 3D printing within an Actor-Network Theory (ANT) framework. My practice-based research draws on the ANT principle of ‘Generalised Symmetry’ to analyse the networks of 3D printing. Through the development and documentation of design research artefacts, questionnaires, and online workshops combining Participatory Design and Critical Making methods, assumptions underpinning the maker movement are challenged. Across three in-depth sections, the maker movement’s relationships with environmental maker practices, accessible and inclusive ‘makerspace’ workshops and entrepreneurial making are critiqued through practice. Each section draws on ANT concepts through Participatory Design to reconceptualise the outcomes of design practice from mere artefacts to interconnected socio-material design things. I evaluate the sustainable, accessible, and entrepreneurial views of the maker movement as well as their long-term implications and interrupt the individualism inherent at the core of much debate in maker movement groups. I aim to reframe maker practices as material-semiotic constellations of interactions constantly in flux. Therefore, this research develops a methodology that combines Participatory Design – adapting the Science and Technology Studies framework of ANT for the field of design – and Critical Making – that combines hands-on making with critical reflection. In so doing, this research re-evaluates widespread home 3D printing technology to intervene in the scale of waste produced in domestic manufacture with plastic. Lastly, this research recommends areas for further study, including considerations for increasing environmental maker practices in makerspaces; outlining methods for creating a more accessible and inclusive maker culture; and illuminating exploitative practices and the need for greater protection of maker creativity.

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