Designed in Shenzhen: Shanzhai Manufacturing and Maker Entrepreneurs

Silvia Lindtner, Anna Greenspan, David Li


We draw from long-term research in Shenzhen, a manufacturing hub in the South of China, to critically examine the role of participation in the contemporary discourse around maker culture. In lowering the barriers of technological production, “making” is being envisioned as a new site of entrepreneurship, economic growth and innovation. Our research shows how the city of Shenzhen is figuring as a key site in implementing this vision. In this paper, we explore the “making of Shenzhen” as the “Silicon Valley for hardware.” We examine, in particular, how maker-entrepreneurs are drawn to processes of design and open sharing central to the manufacturing culture of Shenzhen, challenging conceptual binaries of design as a creative process versus manufacturing as its numb execution. Drawing from the legacy of participatory design and critical computing, the paper examines the social, material, and economic conditions that underlie the growing relationship between contemporary maker culture and the concomitant remake of Shenzhen. 


Maker culture; industrial production; manufacturing; participation; open source; DIY; China; Shanzhai;

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