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Adrian Smith - Technology Networks for socially useful production

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Adrian Smith - Technology Networks for socially useful production

  1. 1. Technology networks for socially useful production Adrian Smith SPRU, University of Sussex
  2. 2. In London in 1982 … • Socialist GLC’s Greater London Enterprise Board (GLEB) • Co-operative enterprises, industrial democracy and socially useful production • Rescuing manufacturing decline and jobs • Five Technology Networks: community-based workshops • Combining “untapped skill, creativity and sheer enthusiasm” in local communities with the “reservoir of scientific and innovation knowledge” in London’s polytechnics: • LIN: London Innovation Network • LNTN: London New Technology Network • LEEN: London Energy & Employment Network • Thames Technet • LTTN: London Transport Technology Network • Linked to movement on left for socially useful production
  3. 3. In the Technology Networks … • Access to tools, expertise, and training – design, manufacturing tools, ICT • Walk-in workshops open to anyone – sited away from ‘alienating’ polytechnics • Examples: women’s computing co-operative, Brass Tacks (a white goods refurbishment co- op), electric bike, disability devices, play equipment, heat pumps, wind turbines, fuel poverty campaign, road-rail bus and transport campaigns … • Product Bank for sharing designs and prototypes developed in the workshops (over 1,500 deposited) • Cultivating participatory design methods, prototyping and product development, mobilising alliances and networks, creating new enterprises, training and skills
  4. 4. The movement for socially useful production • In opening design, prototyping and production to popular participation sought to build, reinforce and extend solidarities • Provides a practical underpinning to an alternative economic strategy to the right (what became neo- liberalism) • Arms conversion, alternative technology • Industrial democracy & community participation • Human-centred, skill enhancing new technology • Unusual & uneasy alliances: peace, community activism, environmentalists, new left, feminism – originating from skilled, craft-based workers at Lucas Aerospace
  5. 5. Working it out in Technology Networks … • Open doors is only the start – need good community development – social mobilisation, e.g. LEEN • Workshops are not insulated from divisions in wider social world – participatory design techniques, e.g. LIN • Prototyping for training and enterprise cf. technological agit prop for awareness and mobilisation • Moving from prototyping into manufacture requires control over capital • Socially useful production needed favourable political economies cf. new right and old left • Importance of radical impulse for new practices – spaces where the rules are different and alternative cultures are possible
  6. 6. Makerspaces: learning with history? • Makerspaces, FabLabs and Hackerspaces • Responding to structural changes - technical, cultural, social, economic, political – but power to shape them? • Different world now – but some fundamentals remain the same? • Varied roles that prototyping can play • Challenges involved in creating new social relations in workshops different to the outside world • Connecting grounded practices of making to big forces of political economy and social movements • How to orientate maker (material) culture to sustainable developments?
  7. 7. More details … • You Tube: Lucas Plan – Open University documentary from 1978 • Wainwright and Elliott, The Lucas Plan, 1982 • Socially useful production, STEPS Working Paper 58, 2014 • Technology Networks for Socially Useful Production, Journal of Peer Production, Issue 5, 2014 • The Lucas Plan: what can it tell us about democratising technology today? The Guardian, Pollitical Science blog, 22 January 2014 • Tooling up: civic visions, FabLabs and grassroots innovation, The Guardian, Political Science blog, 4 April 2015 • a.g.smith@sussex.ac.uk @smithadrianpaul
  8. 8. The GLEB philosophy …
  9. 9. The movement for socially useful production • Restructuring of capital, new technology, manufacturing relocation, flexible specialisation • Workers’ alternative industrial strategies, beginning with Lucas Plan 1976: Mike Cooley – skills, needs, prototyping and tech agit prop • Socially useful production – not just jobs • Arms conversion, alternative technology • Industrial democracy & community participation • Human-centred, skill enhancing technology • Popular planning and alternative economic strategy • Unusual & uneasy alliances: peace, community activism, environmentalists, left, feminism

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