Hamburg’s Current Situation With Regards To Digital Fabrication and Commons-Based Peer Production

From P2P Foundation
Jump to navigation Jump to search


By Benedikt Seidel:

"In order to analyze Hamburgs stand with regards to digital fabrication and CBPP, first a definition of what exactly is looked for must be given. In the context of this paper the interest lies rather in bottom-up initiatives, where civil society is empowered to participate in value creation thru digital means. Therefore, businesses or private actors that have no ambition to contribute to networks of online or offline communities are excluded from this screening. The research of the author and that of Schreiner (2019) shows that so far there is no systemic net of CBPP infrastructure but rather a loose conglomeration of different initiatives. Makerspaces would be the clearest manifestation of CBPP and digital fabrication, because according to Niaros, Kostakis and Drechsler (2017) makerspaces can be CBPP in the physical realm. Makerspaces are open workshops where almost anything can produced with comparably low capital intensity. Prominent tools in these shops are 3D-printers and laser-cutters.

However, the most systemic one is the fab labs of which Hamburg currently has four (Fab Foundation 2019). Fab labs are makerspaces that belong to a global network of close to 2000 fab labs. In order to become a fab lab, a makerspace must have a minimum of a certain set of tools and subscribe to the fab lab charta. The fab charta guarantees easy access to the tools. However, there is 15 makerspaces that offer digital fabrication, but do not subscribe to the fab lab concept and also those that only have not the whole set of machinery that is required for being a fab lab (Verbund offener Werkstätten 2019). In addition to open workshops, Hamburg has eleven repair cafés, which are places where usually electronic gadgets can be repaired without charging fees. These places rather seldom use digital fabrication but the way knowledge and tools are shared is peer to peer and the mentality is in line with commons-oriented initiatives. As an experience of the research being done in Hamburg, the author has learned that the management of repair cafés would like to “upgrade” their sites to makerspaces. This is why repair cafés are listed in this screening. Other than these initiatives, Hamburg has research institutions that have been dealing with the topic of either CBPP, digital fabrication, or both in their research, such as the Laboratorium Fertigungstechnik at Helmut Schmidt University and the Institut für Technische Bildung und Hochschuldidaktik at the Technical University of Hamburg.

In cooperation with Schreiner (2019) the author identified the following characteristics of makerspaces in Hamburg, that are structured according to the business model canvas:

In terms of key resources, the study names facilities in which the users can work without interruption and that allow for interaction with other users. This space for interaction is quite relevant because it is necessary for learning processes that is at the core of commons-based peer production. Also, tools that can be used in sharing processes to better utilise capacities were mentioned as being important. Another key resource is digital fabrication technologies, such as laser cutters and 3D-printers. Adding to this, skilled personnel that is able to teach less skilled users is also important. The teaching is usually done thru learning by doing by assisting in realising certain project ideas.

Among key partners are the users themselves. Three of the makerspaces in Hamburg see them as shareholders of their own organisation, because the users become members of the non-profit and pay member fees. Another key partner is the government, because it often funds makerspaces. However, only one makerspace receives non-project based funding by the government. Other than that, the government funding is project based and can therefore not secure the long term existence of the makerspaces. The funding for two of the makerspaces comes from the ministry for culture and media, which reflects that the government has so far rather seen a cultural value in makerspaces and not an economic one. A problem that arises due to funding by the government is that the political will to fund might change due to elections. In addition, sources of funding are for-profit businesses, private investors and philanthropic foundations.

The interviewed makerspaces perceive the core of their value creation in education, innovation, social community building, sustainable thought patterns and in repairing and recycling.

The study finds that users of makerspaces in Hamburg do not mainly belong to one group, but can be considered as diverse. Differentiated by their function, makerspaces in Hamburg are used by artists, businesses, hobbyists, self-employed, start-ups, university students, apprentices and school students." (


See: Fab City Hamburg and its Mission-Oriented Coalition for Digital Transformation

  • Master's Thesis: HOW TO HARNESS THE DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION THROUGH A MISSION-ORIENTED COALITION? FIRST INSIGHTS FROM THE CASE OF FAB CITY HAMBURG. By Benedikt Seidel. TALLINN UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY, School of Business and Governance, Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance, Technology Governance and Digital Transformation, January 2020