Liberatory Methodologies: Participatory Action Research Strategies for Discovering Inclusive Maker Space Practices


In this Research Work in Progress paper, we describe the methods chosen for a project exploring best practices of inclusion in maker spaces serving diverse populations. Maker spaces provide communities access to innovation tools in startup settings that are shaped by the participating members. In our study, these include not only hacker spaces that involve computing, electronic activities, and three-dimensional printing capabilities, but also sites focusing on traditional arts and crafts. Sites selected represent sustainable examples of the values embedded in maker space missions: to promote shared space (physical or virtual, temporary or permanent), materials, and knowledge for the purpose of putting production back in the hands of the people. To study the dynamics through which a community and its space come together, we have employed methods including content analysis, ethnographically-informed participant-observations, and an open space technology workshop/Unconference combined with participatory action research (PAR). We position PAR as both a method and as a methodology, providing a justification for our flexible approach and adaptable strategies. We will describe the process of data collection leading up to the Unconference, how various perspectives are combined at the Unconference, and how the PAR component is threaded throughout the entire project. Finally, we explain our use of the theoretical framework and analytical tool of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), which guides our interpretations of interactions in both the maker spaces and our participatory action research process.


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A. Masters
L. McNair
D. Riley
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