Editor’s Note: Silvia Lindtner, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of California, Irvine and at Fudan University in Shanghai. She teaches, researches and writes about open hardware and DIY maker culture, with a particular focus on its intersections with manufacturing and entrepreneurialism in China, globalized processes of labor, and expressions of selfhood and collectivity. The post first appeared on Transfabric and Hackthings. She’ll write more for TechNode later on. Please stay tuned.

From January to April 2013, I was based out of Shenzhen, a city in the southern region of China, bordering Hong Kong, and most widely known as the home to factories such as Foxconn, where firms like Apple and HP manufacture their products. What brought me to Shenzhen was a new project, part of my long-term ethnographic research on maker and hackerspace culture in China: I followed a group of hardware-focused start-ups, who worked closely with Chinese manufacturers to turn their open source hardware ideas into tangible products.

The 10 start-ups I have been working with over the last months in Shenzhen and programs like HAXLR8R play a central role in what I call an increasing “professionalization of Make.” By this, I refer to a growing number of start-ups and individual makers that are working towards economic models that allow them to make a living off their hardware designs and productions. In this post, I explore what actually goes into this professionalization of maker practice, which is mostly thought of as a hobbyist activity and something that people do in their free time or just for fun. What does it take to professionalize make? I will show that at the center of this transformation lies the establishment of partnerships between people and entities we previously thought of as populating quite distinct or even opposing worlds.

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