Talk: Reproducing machines, reproducing economic relations

Building Together — Manufacturing Solidarity
Sunday 13th of November, 2011

by Johan Söderberg

This talk is based on an ongoing case study of the Rep-rap project, the famous self-replicating DIY 3D printer. The presentation is based on a case study of the project including about 20 interviews with many of the core developers of Rep-rap, conducted over a two-year time period. The Rep-rap project is taken as a point of departure for reflecting over the central idea in this and many other hacker projects, namely: that the world can be changed through the development of an alternative technology. In fact, this idea has less to do with new technology, and more to do with the creation of new social relations in which technology can be developed. It begs the question about the tension between those experimental, social relations and the pre-dominant relation, that is: the market relation. Bringing the technology to the market is often a necessity in order for a project to scale to the point where it becomes politically relevant. At the same time, however, the risk that the community will dissolve or have its goals distorted by the inflow of money is always present. The Rep-rap project is particularly interesting to study in this regard, because the claim that this problem can be resolved by having a machine which is able to copy its own parts.

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