Gambiarra: repair culture

Maker culture has gained a lot of ground in the last few years. Maybe too much, in fact. We can of course ignore those people who are only, as always, surfing the current wave of hype. They seldom have any clue of the ideas they are selling themselves with anyway. But it also feels as though everybody else is talking about maker culture. Those words are even being uttered by people who have always been opposed to what they should mean. Or is it me? Did I get it wrong all the way?

First time I read about a "maker culture", it was a sort of relief. I had finally found - or so I thought - a way to explain a number of initiatives some of us in Brazil had been involved for some years before that. Framing those things as "making" enabled us to mix critical thinking with DIY (as brilliantly put by Matt Ratto on "critical making"), proposing a sort of creative engagement that escaped the dead-ends of tedious market-driven innovation. A culture of conscious makers could recognize and promote alternative solutions and new perspectives for everyday problems, valuing distributed and collaborative approaches and seeking the common good. It would help overcoming traditional institutions and their clogged circuits of information. Local, cooperative formations would challenge the logics of global industrial capitalism, treating every human being - or small group, however loose it was - as potentially creative and productive. Industrial products that suffered of planned obsolescence would be repaired as armies of amateurs used the internet to share digital models of replacement parts. New kinds of meaning and engagement would evolve influenced by such approaches to material and cultural expression. Possibilities emerging from the free software and hacker movements would finally evert to the world of things.leia mais >>


Last year I spent two weeks as a designer in residence in Doha, hosted by the MFA in Design program at VCUQatar. The focus of the residency was working with the idea of a "repair culture" that first occurred to me while talking to members of the Bricolabs network during Pixelache Festival 2013, in Helsinki. Of course, repairing broken things is nothing new. But it seems to become less fashionable everyday in many parts of the world. Lots of economic as well as cultural issues contribute to that, at the same time as there are significant experiences resisting the disappearing of repair.

One specific concern I had was the way people are adopting the so-called "maker culture". Back in 2009, some of us were excited with the renewed interest in making and the promises of defying industrial capitalism - proposing alternatives to its heavy environmental impact, logistic costs and the fundamental drive to alienate people from the inner workings of the products they buy and discard. Currently, though, digital fabrication technologies seem to be increasingly turning into mere tools for new sorts of commercial entrepreneurship that can instead give new breath to the industrial age.

Qatar was a meaningful context to expand those thoughts. The country's economic development in high speed exacerbates the worst implications brought about by practices of contemporary post-industrial capitalism. Most people there are able to buy things and shortly throw them away. And being a country in which recycling is hardly viable, "away" may as well mean "somewhere in the desert". Or "somewhere abroad where we can't see".leia mais >>

Repair culture

Repair Culture
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Is maker culture as new and revolutionary as tech gurus lately claim? How are those practices related to the all so human creative impulse to solve problems - which has been around since the dawn of times? Has maker culture been appropriated by startup hipsters eager to become rich and famous?

Repair Culture is an outcome of my two-week period as a designer-in-residence in Doha last november, hosted by the MFA in Design program at VCUQatar. Seeking a critical take on maker culture and its current status of raw material to entrepreneurial hype, in this book I try to relate its roots to the background of critical, autonomous hacklabs and media activist groups, as well as draw a parallel with practices of brazilian digital cultures which articulate gambiarra as a social creative habit.

This first edition of Repair Culture is a shorter version, text-only. The upcoming full version will feature also reports of some experiments we've done while I was in Doha.leia mais >>

Entrevista para revista A Rede

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Patrícia Cornils esteve em Ubatuba no mês passado para me entrevistar para a revista A Rede. O resultado está aqui:leia mais >>