Date of Award

Fall 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Michael Salvo

Committee Member 1

Samantha Blackmon

Committee Member 2

Nathan Johnson


In the past few decades, web technologies and increasingly accessible digital fabrication technologies such as 3D printers and laser cutters have made it easier for individuals and communities to create complex material objects at home. As a result, communities of individuals who make things outside formal institutions, known as maker communities, have combined traditional crafts and technical knowledge with digital tools and web technologies in new ways. This thesis analyzes maker communities as post-industrial participatory design communities and examines them as participatory spaces where technical communication occurs between individuals with varying levels of expertise and sometimes drastically different knowledges. Ultimately, this thesis asks what technical communicators can learn from maker communities about international post-industrial economies and the future of technical communication.

This thesis explores how the emergence of interdisciplinary maker communities is rooted in earlier open source movements and the web, how open source principles change when applied to material development processes, how makerspaces and maker faires function as sites that bring together makers in development, and how maker communities serve as examples of post-industrial configurations of participatory communities.

Through participating in and analyzing maker communities, I suggest that participatory communities are a fundamental component of post-industrial development processes, and that technical communicators are well equipped to deal with the socio-cultural, rhetorical, and technological challenges such communities face. Furthermore, drawing on Liza Potts' theory of Experience Architecture, I suggest that technical communicators will continue to act as guides in decision making processes and as creators of communities, while also creating systems that enable greater exchange of information across platforms and communities, in both physical and digital realms.