Making Our World

The Hacker and Maker Movements in Context

by Jeremy Hunsinger (Volume editor) Andrew Schrock (Volume editor)
©2019 Textbook XIV, 318 Pages
Series: Digital Formations, Volume 120


Making Our World: The Hacker and Maker Movements in Context describes and situates the political, historical, national, and organizational elements of hacking and making. Hackers and makers are often mythologized, leading to people misunderstanding them as folk heroes for the modern age. In response, this book describes and critiques these movements from a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives to help readers appreciate their worldwide scope and highly localized interpretations. Making Our World is essential reading for students and scholars of technology and society, particularly those interested in social movements and DIY cultures.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • Advance Praise for Making Our World
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction (Jeremy Hunsinger / Andrew R. Schrock)
  • References
  • Section I. Histories Introduction (Andrew R. Schrock)
  • 1. Learning by Doing: The Tenuous Alliance of the “Maker Movement” and Education Reform (T. Philip Nichols / Debora Lui)
  • Making and Education
  • Making as “Ethos”
  • Aims of Education in the Maker Movement
  • Internal Conflicts
  • References
  • 2. Kevin Mitnick, The New York Times, and the Media’s Conception of the Hacker (Molly R. Sauter)
  • Hacker Mitnick: Threat or Menace?
  • History of Mitnick’s Case and Times Coverage
  • Metaphor and Metonym in Mitnick Coverage
  • Hackers Reified as Enemies
  • Persistent Metaphors, Characterizations, and Narratives
  • The Rise of the Ex-Hacker Figure
  • Impacts on Technology Discourse and Reporting
  • New York Times Articles Cited
  • References
  • 3. Making Civic Media in the Post-Fukushima Japanese Media Ecology (Yasuhito Abe)
  • Media System Dependency (MSD) Theory
  • Structural Dependency Relations in Japan
  • Post-Fukushima Japanese Society as a Risk Society
  • Safecast as Civic Media in Post-Fukushima Japanese Society
  • Conclusion
  • Note
  • References
  • 4. Project Chanology and the Formation of Anonymous as an Activist Movement (Rhea Vichot)
  • Historical Context for the Emergence of Anonymous
  • Scientology, Online Schism, and the Formation of Project Chanology
  • Anonymous as a Tactical Media Group
  • Attitudes Between Anonymous and Project Chanology
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • Section II. Politics Introduction (Andrew R. Schrock)
  • 5. Conscientious Hacking and the Weak Collective (Nathanael Bassett)
  • Theory & Background
  • What Hacking Does
  • What Hackers Do Alone and Together
  • Methods
  • Findings
  • Typologies
  • Free Form
  • Mixed Methods
  • Organizational
  • Values and Motivations at the Hackathon
  • Analysis
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • 6. Policy Hacking: Opening Up the Code of Media and Communications Regulation (Arne Hintz)
  • Introduction
  • Communication Policy, Civil Society Advocacy, and Hacking
  • Policy Hackathons
  • Hacking the Law
  • Policy Hacking: Experimentation, Participation, and Policy Change
  • Conclusion: Policy Hacking as a New Practice?
  • Notes
  • References
  • 7. Hacking Administration—A Report From Los Angeles (Morgan Currie)
  • What Is Civic Hacking?
  • Civic Hacking in LA
  • Critiques of Civic Hacking
  • Neoliberalism and Silicon Valley
  • Languishing in the Speculative
  • Confined by Solutionism
  • The Problem of Writing About an Emerging Topic
  • Theories of Participation in Administration
  • Hacking the Administrative
  • Beyond Civic Hacking
  • Notes
  • References
  • 8. Why Locality and Presence (Still) Matter for Political Activism (Sebastian Kubitschko)
  • Introduction
  • Underworld, Government, and Something Civic in Between
  • The Social Dimension of Locality
  • The Political Dimension of Presence
  • Organizational Capacity
  • References
  • Section III. Organizing Introduction (Jeremy Hunsinger)
  • 9. Basteln, Tinkering, and Bricolage: A Cultural History of Hacking (Alexander von Lünen)
  • Introduction
  • Tinkering With Radios
  • Radio in Britain
  • Weimar Germany
  • Hacking in Aviation
  • Bricolage
  • Hacking and Making
  • Attempt of a Definition
  • Escaping the Iron Cage
  • Conclusions
  • Notes
  • References
  • 10. Women’s Hacking of the Poison Gift of Free/Libre/Open Source Software (Jennifer Maher)
  • F/LOSS as Gift
  • The Gift as Poison
  • Women’s Writing
  • The Gift Reimagined
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • 11. Making Space for a Revolution: Occupy Wall Street as a Maker Movement (Alison E. Vogelaar / Charlotte M. McKernan)
  • A Movement in the Making: The Contemporary Maker Movement
  • Expert/Novice
  • Public/Private
  • Operation Occupy Wall Street and the Politics of Making
  • Politics as Pro-Am: Making Democratic Subjectivities
  • Political Platforms 2.0: Putting Politics in Its (Public) Place
  • Conclusions: Making OWS
  • Notes
  • References
  • 12. The Détente Model of Managing Divergent Values in the Maker-Sphere (Ann Light)
  • Introducing the Maker-Sphere
  • Theoretical Background
  • Values and Making
  • The Studies
  • Study 1: Discourses of Production
  • Three Examples of Managing Production
  • Understanding Détente
  • Study 2: Effectiveness in Action
  • Bottom-up Making
  • Discussion: How Values Are Negotiated
  • Conclusion
  • Note
  • References
  • Section IV. Case Studies Introduction (Jeremy Hunsinger)
  • 13. Hacker Agency and the Raspberry Pi: Informal Education and Social Innovation in a Belfast Makerspace (Pip Shea)
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Hacker Agency: Enacting the Conditions of Hacking
  • Farset Labs’ Raspberry Jam
  • Revealing Affordances Through Pi Play
  • Farset Labs and Digital Social Innovation
  • Discussion: Challenges and Opportunities
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • 14. Hacking as a Way of Life: “Makers” at the Margins of Global Digital Culture (Nicholas Balaisis)
  • “Tools for Makers:” New Media and the Rhetoric of Creativity
  • “The Maker Manifesto,” or, the Neoliberal Discourse of “Making”
  • Creativity at the Back End the Technology Spectrum
  • References
  • 15. The Paradox of Maker Movement in China (Xin Gu)
  • The Arrival of Maker Movement in China
  • Maker Culture—The Answer to the Future of Manufacturing
  • Shanzhai—The Politics of Chinese Maker Movement
  • Maker Movement: Shanzhai 2.0
  • Practices in the Construction of Maker Industry in China
  • Entrepreneurialism—A Non-business Business Model
  • Maker Faire and Mobile Makers
  • Education Reform
  • Urban Farming
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • 16. Our Community Hacks: Exploring Hive Toronto’s Open Infrastructures (Karen Louise Smith)
  • Introduction
  • Research Involvement
  • Forming Hive Toronto and the Network’s First Hack Jam
  • Learning Activities for Making Producers Not Consumers of the Web
  • Equity and Inclusion in Hacking/Making
  • Educhacking Through the Hive Toronto Network
  • Getting to Know the Network
  • ROERs
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • Afterword: Hackers and Makers Are Ordinary (Andrew R. Schrock)
  • References
  • Series index

| vii →



Wilfrid Laurier University


Chapman University

In this volume, we seek to provide an introduction and an overview of important projects in the worlds of hacking and making. In performing those tasks, we had to be inclusive and engaged in the debate about how these movements have been interpreted across disciplines. Communication studies, media studies, political science, policy studies, information science, computer science, and other fields have all engaged in studies of hacking and making from a variety of perspectives and methods. While this volume recognizes the scholarship as it exists and uses it, it attempts to provide another foundation from which to build. We use examples and cases as the primary location of analysis of hacking and making. This provides our readers conceptual tools to research future hacking and making, and examples to think through the present.

The book is an engagement with many tangents that are coming together to define a set of intersections which construct a mutating, coalescing, and diverging space. For this reason, we have exercised a light editorial influence, only organizing papers across four sections: history, politics, organizing, and cases. These sections illuminate different aspects of the ongoing development of the world of hacking and making. Each section has a selection of materials based on its title and an introduction that goes into greater detail. As such, we invite you to read these chapters either as stand-alone pieces, or in conversation with each section’s introduction.

This broader introduction adds some conceptualizations and contexts to ongoing debates beyond this text. It is our hope that larger projects of hacking and making might exist, such as democracy and the politics of hope it ← vii | viii → fosters. Between the possibilities for mass action and individual agency exists the possibilities of group action; action to change the world such as hacking and making. Hacking and making are frequently found in both online and offline hackerspaces/makerspaces. These spaces enable group actions to change the world through the empowerment of both individuals and groups. It is in these spaces that there must be an active politics beyond hacking and making. It is a politics of activities and practices that disseminate, reproduce, and introduces an assemblage of knowledges and related materialities. Like most institutions around knowledge such as schools and universities, democratic aspirations exist in tension with institutional and societal forces.

Hackerspaces are new versions of old cultural institutions oriented toward hacking and making (Hunsinger, 2017). Hacking can be thought of as a creative activity centered on the use of technology to “scratch an itch” or solve a problem (Hunsinger, 2017; Raymond, 2001). Making tends to include the broader categories found in DIY creativity that aren’t necessarily resolving personal goals, but might also be contributing to formal and informal economies in other ways. Hacking and making materialize possibilities in that they tend to require space, which is occupied by an assemblage of people and things that come together to reproduce and/or generate objects. In these spaces, they produce social, cultural and economic relations. It is in these possibilities that people might find hope, or at least a new politics of hope might arise (Fenton, 2012; Lewis, 2009; Salovaara, 2015).

Following the 2016 New Media & Society issue on the Democratization of Hacking and Making, there has been a shift away from the politics of hope, and a shift from the democratic faith (Deneen, 2009; Dewey, 1944). The hope for the demos and thus for the masses to become hackers or makers and to use technologies in a way that makes them more equal and free is not lost. That is, the ideologies of freedom and equality still exist within the movement, as they do in most hacker and technological progress oriented movements. The existence of the ideologically oriented teleologies, however, does not entail that there is any substantive change being made that will achieve those ends. While this saddens us, we have to admit that the belief that these ends could come to fruition does comfort us and likely others. While demo-cratic hope still exists, the driving force of these communities seems to be internally-directed. In other words, hackers and makers, while occasionally interconnected with others, have a problem that most of hackerspaces are independent entities and tend toward maintaining that independence. There have been larger organizations of several hackerspaces in some countries, but rarely have they had any large political effect. Most of their effect in the social sphere has been commercial, and arguably that effect is primarily as consumers instead of producers (Day, 2016). ← viii | ix →

The tendency of independence and internal-directedness is not entirely surprising as the mythos of the independent creator is still a significant ideological construct in information technology. This tendency is also the cause of some of the problems with unionization of information technology workers, which is deeply needed but deeply resisted by the workers themselves though the work toward organizing them is increasing. These ideological constructs and others are slowly transforming this solidly middle-class occupation into a worker class precariat (Gregg, 2015; Neilson & Rossiter, 2008; Wark, 2013). Hacking and making are developing in relation to the needs of that precariat.

This growing precarity is also one of the reasons why hacking and making and thus hackerspaces exist (Lindtner, 2017). They provide access to the tools, infrastructures, and knowledges necessary to “innovate”. The mythogenesis of “innovation” as an economic driver has been tied to technology and its development for some time. The imagination of hacking and making as “innovation” is tied to various historical examples that may not be actual progenitors of the movement (Levy, 2001). However, even if the progenitors of hacking and making were sites of innovation, times and situations have changed enough that the continued imagination and mythologizing is less warranted. The mythological garages where several companies (HP, Apple) were launched are less possible in today’s economic and ecological system of innovation than they were in the past.

Tools and tooling are one of many costly expenses of “innovation,” which hacking and making mythologized and attempted to transfer to the hackers and makers as hobbies, interests and passions. Hackers and makers are encouraged to pursue these activities as “innovative,” but they also can be considered exploitative. That is, they transfer the costs of innovation in time and labor from institutions to individuals and communities while allowing capital to accumulate in the institutions exploiting these community’s “innovations”. Some communities and some companies have invested in hacking and making to drive the system of innovation to capture or if not capture then localize the innovation.

As argued elsewhere, the practices and locations of hacking and making are not centers of innovation. Rather, they are centers of reproduction and dissemination of knowledge (Hunsinger, 2009, 2016). Mostly, hackers and makers don’t create new things. Instead, they reproduce things that are built upon ideas that already exist from parts that are closer to advanced LEGOs or Erector sets. They buy the parts from any number of local or online suppliers, with instructions for use. Sometimes they build basic and advanced kits with minor deviations, much like much of the world does with birdhouses. In this case, the birdhouses are electronics and the boards are electronic bits and the nails are wires, solder, and other interconnections. We ← ix | x → should not be surprised that the majority of “innovation” is based on consumer electronics, since stores such as Radio Shack have long existed. The “do-it-yourself” (DIY) ethos has always been a rich area for market exploitation (Hunsinger, 2016).

International communities organizing around hacking and making resist diversity (Dunbar-Hester, 2016), excepting those with feminist principles built into their founding. For example, hackerspaces tend to be overwhelmingly male, and parallel the hegemonic ethnicity of their locality. This results in hacking and making being less diverse than the communities that they inhabit. The tendency is not intentional, but the result of social forces and individual choices within the DIY milieu in which they exist. The international space in which they occupy is notably interconnected by the internet, which these groups of makers use extensively for research, discussion, dissemination, planning, and organizational matters. The interconnectedness provides the opportunity and possibility of collaboration, which they have done in the past. There have been national and international conferences for, and there is a significantly commercialized set of conferences for the maker movement. These opportunities should allow for them to reach out to each other and to reach out further into their local community, but given that the growth is limited as described above, this tends not to happen as dynamically we might hope.

This book discusses the myriad of institutions that ally with hackers and makers, from libraries to colleges, to universities, to governments, to museums, to businesses, to community organizations, to radical groups, and onward. The hacking and making movements have long been seen either as the development of hobbies in the era of precarity or as systems of innovations attached to other organizations. However, both of these imaginations of hacking and making are born of ideologies of hope, resisting the knowledge that books like this one provide in favor of imagination of possibility for positive social change and new possibilities for institutions in communities. Sometimes this has worked well, especially in regards to library hackerspaces where knowledge is a good in its own right. However, frequently hackerspaces fail to be justified in other systems, such as profit-seeking corporations. The structures of legitimation in which FIY movements such as hackerspaces and maker movement flourish requires a vibrant ecosystem that appreciates knowledge over profit, though inarguably they rely on profit within their ecosystem.

As our authors show, there is a plurality of forms of hacking and making, and with that, there is a plurality of academic disciplines researching them. There have been some great studies of hacking and making in the last few years such as David Gauntlett (2011), Sarah Davies (2017) and many of the ← x | xi → contributors of this volume. This work has sought to bring forth the topic, to stabilize the space of debate and the definitions; our volume is not engaged significantly in the definition debates around hacking and making. It is an engagement with many tangents that are coming together to define a set of intersections which construct a space of possibility.

The possibility that this book creates is a possibility of meaning and perhaps the development of the knowledges around hacking and making. The direction of research represented are diverse and transversally connected in numerous ways. It is in the interconnection that possibilities arise for future research and learning about hacker and makers.


Davies, S. R. (2017). Hackerspaces: making the maker movement. London, UK: Polity

Day, A. (2016). DIY Utopia: Cultural imagination and the remaking of the possible. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Deneen, P. (2009). Democratic faith. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Dewey, J. (1944). The democratic faith and education. The Antioch Review, 4(2), 274.

Dunbar-Hester, C. (2016). “Freedom from Jobs” or learning to love to labor? Diversity advocacy and working imaginaries in Open Technology Projects. Revista Teknokultura, 13(2), 541–566.

Fenton, N. (2012). The internet and radical politics. In J. Curran, D. Freedman, & N. Fenton (Eds.), Misunderstanding the internet (pp. 149–176). London; New York, NY: Routledge.

Gauntlett, D. (2011). Making is connecting: The social meaning of creativity from DIY and knitting to YouTube and Web 2.0. Cambridge; Malden, MA: Polity Press.

Gregg, M. (2015). Hack for good: Speculative labour, app development and the burden of austerity. The Fibreculture Journal, 25.

Hunsinger, J. (2009). Knowledge and cultural production in the context of contemporary capitalism: A response to wittkower. Fast Capitalism, 4(1). Retrieved from http://www.uta.edu/huma/agger/fastcapitalism/4_1/hunsinger.html

Hunsinger, J. (2016). Our knowledge is our market: Consuming the DIY world. In A. Day (Ed.), DIY Utopia: Cultural imagination and the remaking of the possible. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Hunsinger, J. (2017). Hacking together globally. Digital Culture & Society, 3(1), 95–108.

Levy, S. (2001). The hacker ethic, hackers: Heroes of the computer revolution. Penguin-USA, Cap, 2, 32–41.

Lewis, J. (2009). Digitopians: Transculturalism, computers and the politics of hope. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 1, 373–389.

Lindtner, S. (2017). Laboratory of the precarious: Prototyping entrepreneurial living in Shenzhen. WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly, 45(3), 287–305. ← xi | xii →

Neilson, B., & Rossiter, N. (2008). Precarity as a political concept, or, Fordism as exception. Theory, Culture & Society, 25(7–8), 51–72.

Raymond, E. S. (2001). The cathedral and the bazaar. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media, Inc.

Salovaara, I. (2015). Spaces of emotion: Technology, media and affective activism. In T. Miller (Ed.), The Routledge companion to global popular culture (pp. 471–480). New York, NY: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Wark, M. (2013). Considerations on a hacker manifesto. London: Routledge.

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Section I. Histories Introduction


Chapman University

“Studying the past,” suggested John Durham Peters, is “a problem of communication.” Hacking and making present just such a challenge. They have had ephemeral histories, passed down through word-of-mouth, textfiles, and guides. Hacker culture has often prided itself on technological skills and obscurity. Researching histories of hackers often entails unearthing communications of a particular group or publication. The maker movement, although relatively recent, has seen more significant financial support and investment. Both hacking and making presents particular, although quite different, challenges for understanding how identities, practices, and media are developed. We have set aside a section for histories to better understand the historical contours of these movements.

The Maker Movement has prided itself on its ability to reform education and improve work conditions through hands-on education. Philip Nichols and Debora Lui suggest that this claim tenuously relies on reconciling two vastly different historical perspectives on education. They describe how Maker Media, Inc. situates making as an “ethos” that echoes previous waves of experiential learning, particularly that of John Dewey. The Maker Movement embraces quite different—even conflicting—outcomes: experiential education, STEM-based learning, and entry into the world of entrepreneurship. Making is thus revealed to be an extension of historical tensions around education and economics that may even work counter to their emancipatory goals. “Without an intentional parsing of these conflicts,” write Nichols and Lui, “making risks becoming another means for reproducing the same inequities that have followed previous educational movements.”


XIV, 318
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (December)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2019. XIV, 318 pp., 3 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Jeremy Hunsinger (Volume editor) Andrew Schrock (Volume editor)

Jeremy Hunsinger is Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. He has co-edited several special issues of journals and books, including two volumes of the International Handbook of Internet Research. For more information and articles, visit his website at tmttlt.com. Andrew Schrock is a post-doctoral fellow at Chapman University. His research broadly considers how people use communication technologies to reconfigure family, community, and democratic institutions. Most recently, he has written extensively on the "civic tech" movement and political participation around data. His research has appeared in New Media & Society, the International Journal of Communication, and Big Data & Society. For more information and articles, please visit his website at aschrock.com.


Title: Making Our World
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