[-empyre-] Maker Cultures in Shenzhen April 2014

Denisa Kera denisa at nus.edu.sg
Fri Apr 11 00:21:47 EST 2014

I promised to send short reportages from the April events in Asia that relate to the Maker culture and Critical Making.
The first of my reportages is on Shenzhen, where three big events just finished this week.  I made a short photo-essay (sorry its on public Facebook) with description of the tours we made in the maker markets https://www.facebook.com/denisakera/posts/10152062316920949 and another photo essay on the Dangerous prototypes workshop https://www.facebook.com/denisakera/posts/10152062316920949 ... There are also pictures by Akiba https://www.flickr.com/photos/22874071@N05/sets/72157643290873355/
I also have an older photo-essays from Hacked Matter workshops http://www.hackedmatter.com/ in
October 2013 Shanghai https://www.facebook.com/denisakera/media_set?set=a.10151722321470949.1073741843.608365948&type=1
October 2013 Shenzhen Seeedstudio visit and https://www.facebook.com/denisakera/media_set?set=a.10151387563050949.1073741832.608365948&type=1
April 2013 Shenzhen market places https://www.facebook.com/denisakera/media_set?set=a.10151383177410949.1073741831.608365948&type=1
While the world political and business elites were discussing the future of trade and innovation in Boao (Hainan) for the 13th time in the Boao Forum Asia http://english.boaoforum.org/,  an international group of makers, hackers, academics and entrepreneurs was exploring a very different geopolitical scenario for the future in the nearby Shenzhen Special Economic Zone. The Boao Forum Asia as the counterpart of World Economic Forum in Davos is trying to negotiate a peace pact between the competing Free Trade Agreements, the infamous, U.S. lead TPP (Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Initiative) and the China supported RCEP agreement (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership), which both remain rather conservative in terms of IP rules and various corporate interests.  The Boao agenda differs dramatically from the goals of the heterogeneous group formed in Shenzhen during the three days "Dangerous Prototypes" workshop on open hardware innovation  http://dangerousprototypes.com/2014/02/06/shenzhen-workshop-april-3-5-2014/  and the local MakerFair http://www.shenzhenmakerfaire.com/ organized among others by Seeedstudio, an original China based, online market for electronic components and kits supporting innovators from around the world to not only  make, but also "Innovate with China". During the workshop, engineers, geeks and tinkerers from around the world were trained by a local Shenzhen master of mobile phone repairs in the art of so called BGA re-balling, a cheap and efficient technique developed by the local shanzhai phone tinkerers to hack, but also repair any complex circuits. Repairing and repurposing of "closed" and black-boxed consumer goods strengthen the resilience and creativity of the maker movement as a new force ignoring common geopolitical divisions and embracing any possibility for grassroots innovation.  During the Maker Fair, San Francisco based Institute for the Future http://www.iftf.org/  organized Maker Cities show and tell presentations, where the makers from the megalopolises, such as London and Hong Kong, got the same attention as makers from Kathmandu and Yogyakarta, and where geeks from Beirut interacted freely with geeks from Tel Aviv, creating a sense of hope.  Art, design, activism and entrepreneurship are all connected in these maker cities and hackerspces around the  world, which hack technology to create new lifestyles and explore new sensitivities way beyond the imagination of the Boao crowds and their political and technical myopia.  The place where you could explore and taste the future this April was Shenzhen, not Boao, which at least creates more time to fight the TPP and the corporate driven politics. The maker culture is making its first attempts in Shenzhen to become a more conscious global force supporting creative connections between  innovation and manufacturing, which ignores the stereotypical East-West divisions, and opens a possibility for new politics.  The open hardware innovators in Shenzhen, who came for these events, but also the ones who take part in the HAXLR8R  accelerator  http://haxlr8r.com/, who also organized a conference at the same time called "Generator 2014" http://www.generatorconf.com/, all define a different form of global future based on open data, open source software and hardware as models for more niche based, transparent, but also lean and pragmatic development. Shenzhen is not just another Special Economic Zone, but a zone where we can experiment with alternative futures while building and tinkering with open hardware, shanzhai, pirated and repurposed products and all kinds of technologies.
I have a pre-print of an article on Shenzhen/maker scence  from my 2013 visits https://www.academia.edu/6206001/Shenzhen_and_the_Republic_of_Tinkerers_Open_Source_Hardware_OSHW_as_Tools_of_Global_Governance_in_the_Hackerspaces_and_DIYbio_labs
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