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The ecosystem of a makerspace: Human, material and place-based interrelationships

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As populations continue to shift to urban centres, there is growing interest in the role of makerspaces. This interest lies in the role makerspaces play in fostering creativity and innovation given the changing dynamic of manufacturing in cities. This article argues that makerspaces comprise complex ecosystems involving the intersections of human capital, social relations, materiality and place. It does so by drawing from the growing literature on this topic and empirical data from a case study of one large makerspace in Sydney, Australia. The article contributes new knowledge to this emerging area of research on makerspaces by illustrating the messy, interconnectedness of such spaces and the neighbourhoods and communities that surround them. A model of a makerspace ecosystem is proposed as a way of visualizing the dynamics of this activity. It concludes that policy-makers, planners and developers need to resist the desire to neatly and efficiently compartmentalize and decontextualize such ecosystems given the nuanced complexity that underpins them. Rather, designing cities to include such messiness is key to supporting the creativity and innovation that is embedded within and around makerspaces.
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Keywords: cities; creativity; designing cities; makerspaces; making; place

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2019

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  • The Journal of Design, Business & Society is a peer-reviewed scholarly publication for business leaders, managers, policy-makers, service-providers and design experts. It examines the complex nature of design and design thinking in relation to its effective application to solving real-world problems across commercial and broader societal contexts. It aims to promote cross-disciplinary design research which engages specialist and generalist stakeholders via qualitative, quantitative, visual or applied research methodologies, ultimately leading to tangible implications for current practice or clear direction for future work.
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