DIY Feminism in Post-Industrial Spaces

2019-08-02T18:47:51Z (GMT) by John T Sherrill
Situating makerspaces as an extension of post-industrial economies, and sites where technical communication and craftivism take place, this dissertation builds on critiques of makerspaces as hobbyist spaces that privilege digital electronics, populated mostly by white men. To do so, this dissertation analyzes who participates in feminist makerspaces, how “makers” describe their work and their experiences, and the roles of rhetoric and technical communication within feminist makerspaces. Building on prior studies of maker communities, this research follows a mixed methods approach and an iterative methodology, including online survey, site studies, interviews, and on-site automated survey to collect user data via kiosk. The online survey asked participants to describe makerspaces they’ve visited, their experiences visiting makerspaces, their work, and themselves. Follow-up interviews conducted with three survey participants addressed times participants felt unwelcome or out of place in a makerspace. Additionally, site studies consisted of visiting and observing two Midwestern makerspaces, both of which partnered with public libraries. This dissertation argues that makerspaces need to do a better job of welcoming guests and new members and actively hosting social events, rather than passively marketing workshops focused on specific technologies. Although people are becoming more familiar with makerspaces, regardless of gender and other aspects of identity, participants describe social anxieties about entering new spaces and unfamiliar communities as common barriers to entry, even before encountering issues based on gender, race, and other aspects of identity. If makerspaces (and “maker” communities more broadly) aim to be more inclusive and equitable, then actively welcoming people in general is a necessary baseline. As such, this dissertation draws from rhetorical theory to suggest ways that makerspaces can improve their hospitality and technical communication practices.