Examining the Design and Development of a Social Justice Makerspace

Kayla Desportes, Shiri Mund, Clarisa James

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In our society, where technologies continue to act as a marginalizing force for various individuals and communities, makerspaces present unique opportunities for community-driven work that engages people with a variety of communal technologies, knowledge, and work practices. However, makerspaces grew out of largely exclusionary discourses, which continue to neglect non-dominant technology practices, knowledge bases, and communities. Despite these origins, research remains largely optimistic about the potential for makerspaces to provide equitable opportunities for those stereotypically excluded to engage, learn, and build with technologies. We mirror this optimism through our work examining how makerspaces might be positioned to address social inequities while supporting community growth and development. This paper traces the development of a social justice makerspace situated within a community of color in the United States. The work contributes a contextual analysis of the design of a makerspace explicitly positioned to forefront community voices and address issues of social inequities. We highlight community perspectives within our situated design process as we draw out the themes and tensions that arose. Applying a social justice framework from Dombrowski et al. (2016) and Lötter's (2011) to our findings we demonstrate how makerspaces can be positioned to address social inequities through: identifying, educating, and communicating about inequities; engaging in the distribution of resources and opportunities; and enabling capacity building at the individual and structural levels. We highlight how an asset-based orientation can position the makerspace to grow in effective ways to address community issues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number397
JournalProceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction
Issue numberCSCW2
StatePublished - Oct 18 2021


  • hackerspace
  • maker cultures
  • makerspace
  • participatory action research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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