Maker Utopias

Cindy KohtalaMagnus WinkRickard ÅströmSara Rylander

‘Koppelting’ maker festival, FabLab Amersfoort, Netherlands, August 2016. Photo Cindy Kohtala

This collaborative design research project uses speculative critical making to create miniature dioaramas of utopian maker spaces to re-examine field work in fab labs, makerspaces, hacklabs, hackerspaces and DIYbio labs in a new way, thinking through their narratives, visions, discourses, utopias and anti-utopias.

Makers and hackers encourage others to actively participate in locally relevant and socially good design and production. Their narratives envision replacing empty consumerism with more empowering, creative, circular, democratic and community-based production in shared workshops, according to local needs, materials and resources. Nevertheless, maker culture is often seen as techno-utopian, and even the solarpunk visions and experiments by ecologically oriented maker communities are seen as too little in the face of climate crisis, hypercapitalism and the sixth mass extinction. In this project we explore the material, aesthetic, technical and conceptual dimensions of maker culture futures, through the creation of miniature dioramas.

The project is a collaboration between the Umeå Institute of Design (UID) and the Department of Creative Studies, including a collaboration between workshops (Sloydlab and UID’s Interaction Lab), and an exploration of craft making and speculative design as research. Research partners include: Cindy Kohtala, Professor of Design for Sustainability, UID; Rickard Åström, Research engineer, Interaction Lab, Umeå Institute of Design; Sara Rylander, Lecturer, Sloydlab, Department of Creative Studies; Magnus Wink, universitetsadjunkt, Sloydlab, Department of Creative Studies.