Research Handbook on Digital Transformations
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Research Handbook on Digital Transformations

Edited by F. Xavier Olleros and Majlinda Zhegu

The digital transition of our economies is now entering a phase of broad and deep societal impact. While there is one overall transition, there are many different sectoral transformations, from health and legal services to tax reports and taxi rides, as well as a rising number of transversal trends and policy issues, from widespread precarious employment and privacy concerns to market monopoly and cybercrime. They all are fertile ground for researchers, as established laws and regulations, organizational structures, business models, value networks and workflow routines are contested and displaced by newer alternatives. This Research Handbook offers a rich and interdisciplinary synthesis of some of the current thinking on the digital transformations underway.
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Chapter 9: Atoms matter: the role of local ‘makerspaces’ in the coming digital economy

Joel West and Anne Greul


Despite an increasingly digital world, we see a movement towards physical user communities which coexist besides virtual, digital communities. This ‘old-fashioned’ face-to-face interaction within those communities attracts an increasing number of individuals who are unified in their common interest for a certain activity, technology or topic. This chapter focuses on a specific form of physical communities, so-called ‘makerspaces’. All kinds of makers, both hobbyists as well as prospective entrepreneurs, use these local facilities to get access to a broad variety of tools and equipment in order to realize their diverse projects. Seeking to understand this development, we analysed the societal and economic forces that led to a broad dissemination of these makerspaces within different countries and that caused individuals to increasingly leverage these facilities. For that purpose, we conducted an observation- and interview-based field study that included 32 semi-structured interviews with active members and staff from local makerspaces across Southern California. We found that three major themes drive the nature and success of local makerspaces: access to tools, personal locus of control that includes an empowerment of individuals to become independent, and the social interaction among members. Accordingly, local makerspaces provide not only access to tools and equipment, but serve also as a physical platform of social exchange where people with the same interests meet and support each other. Regardless of their long-term success, the impact that local makerspaces have already had on entrepreneurial endeavours and consumers’ attitude towards creating tangible objects cannot be denied.

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