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Chapter 2 Participatory Democratic Production


This chapter explores how a community makerspace is being conceived and organized as a nonprofit that takes up cooperative aims for transformative education by putting the mode of production back into the hands of the community. Drawing upon a framework of cooperative worker self-direction, I consider how maker production becomes more democratic, in participatory terms, when makers collectively make decisions on the activities, tools, technologies, partnerships, and class/workshop offerings of makerspaces. I focus on one makerspace, Cruces Creatives, located in Las Cruces, New Mexico, a Southwestern city on the border between the United States and Mexico. As an educational researcher in Rhetoric and Professional Communication, my goal is to investigate the participatory agency that Cruces Creatives advances through its conception and organization as a democratic space that spurs economic and artistic growth, while promoting environmental responsibility through creative recycling, upcycling, and both high-tech (3-D printing, laser cutting, and scanners) and low-tech (woodworking equipment) tool sharing. Drawing upon the case of Cruces Creatives, I argue that it is how a workspace is conceived and organized, and how and to what ends its technologies are used and shared, that makes it truly democratic in participatory terms, rather than its profitability and status as a for-profit enterprise or not-for-profit organization. I conclude that Cruces Creatives with its focus on participatory labor and innovative technology sharing is transforming education in a Web 2.0 era where what it means to be a maker/producer, innovator, and activist for social change is shifting in dynamic ways.

In: Education for Democracy 2.0