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A fablab at the periphery

Decentering innovation from São Paulo



Computers, Science and Technology, Development, Digital and Virtual Anthropology, Digital Media, Innovation


In recent decades, many tech spaces have emerged worldwide to promote innovation. Based on ethnographic research, this article examines one of such initiatives in Brazil—a public laboratory of digital fabrication located in a low-income neighborhood in the periphery of São Paulo. While scholars have exposed the neoliberal aspects of fablabs, this article aims to de-center hegemonic understandings of innovation by attending to its situated practices. Analyzing the techno-optimist aspirations and institutional legacies behind this laboratory, I explain how the US-based fablab model was reconfigured in light of community concerns and previous Latin American experiments of digital inclusion. Against a monolithic image of tech collectives, I show how lab workers cultivated a diverse range of audiences and creative practices, specifically those of working-class women. The article concludes with a call for more anthropological attention to overlooked tech practices as a means to imagine fairer and more solidary forms of innovation. [computing, development, digital inclusion, innovation, technology]


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