Genealogy, Culture and Technomyth

Kat Braybrooke and Tim Jordan

Abstract

Western-derived maker movements and their associated fab labs and hackerspaces are being lauded by some as a global industrial revolution, responsible for groundbreaking digital “entanglements” that transform identities, practices and cultures at an unprecedented rate (Anderson 2014; Hills 2016). Assertions proliferate regarding the societal and entrepreneurial benefits of these “new” innovations, with positive impacts ascribed to everything, from poverty to connectivity. However, contradictory evidence has started to emerge, suggesting that a heterogeneous set of global cultural practices have been homogenized. This paper employs a materialist genealogical framework to deconstruct three dominant narratives about information technologies, which we call “technomyths” in the tradition of McGregor et al. After outlining the maker movement, its assumptions are examined through three lesser-cited examples: One Laptop per Child in Peru, jugaad in India and shanzhai copyleft in China. We then explore two preceding technomyths: Open Source and Web 2.0. In conclusion, we identify three key aspects as constitutive to all three technomyths: technological determinism of information technologies, neoliberal capitalism and its “ideal future” subjectivities and the absence and/or invisibility of the non-Western.

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