Encountering cultures of making in China: narratives and practices of co-creative communities

Recent policies such as “made in China 2025” or “mass makerspaces” implemented by the Chinese government aim to transform China’s image from “the world’s factory to a creative powerhouse” to be recognized as an “innovation-oriented nation” (Wang 2016). This scene of “top-down grassroots innovation” (Wen 2017) encounters a larger bottom-up movement of semi-autonomous communities called “makers”. These heterogeneous groups of people and organizations have found a common ground in the definition of different logics for creativity and innovation at the margin of traditional working systems. In numerous cities, an array of new places such as makerspaces, hackerspaces, fablabs, co-working spaces and events such as fairs have been promoting new ways of producing, working and thinking. This paper looks into narratives and practices of a selected community of makers – XinCheJian – in Shanghai between 2014 and 2018. It scrutinizes the production of everyday creativity in such a place and analyses the motives of their narratives embodied in regular making practices. In particular local regular workshops are key moments to critically reflect on the process of co-creation among makers (and its dissemination outside these communities) and to address issues of self-determination in the Chinese context. By looking at these workshops, we argue that makers communities have gradually lost their degree of independence, a core value of their raison d’être, and progressively entered into a more institutional framework. Partly coopted by the State, makers communities are one of the tools used to unfold the storytelling of the China Dream, but they are also using their new position for playing a role in current economic strategies as representatives of wider networks, urban, industrial and cultural transformations. The paper ends with a focus on the looping effect of official narratives that include media and academic discourses on the identification of these makers communities as drivers of innovation in China. It finally raises the question of how do makers communities end up in contributing – willingly or not – to the formulation of public policy?


Presented at:
#Chinacreative: Users, Makers, Dreamers, a Workshop on Vernacular Creativity and Beyond, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, October 4-5, 2018
Year:
Oct 04 2018
Keywords:
Laboratories:




 Record created 2018-10-08, last modified 2019-05-07


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