The School of Journalism and Communication congratulates Dr. Jess Ring on the successful defence of their PhD dissertation, “Re-Tooling the Sisterhood: Conceptualizing ‘Meaningful Making’ through Maker Culture, Makerspace Politics, and Feminist ‘little m’ making-as-activism.”

“My dissertation takes a close look at several do-it-yourself communities in Canada, stemming from hacktivism, craftivism and DIY feminism, and explores how these otherwise simple personal pastimes have transformed into meaningful sites for social and political activism,” Jess says.

“Maker Culture means different things to different people. My research unpacks the multiple dimensions of these community spaces and examines how and why they become meaningful to people. I also examine how makerspaces have become sites for boundary work and privilege, raising questions of who participates in these communities and what counts as ‘real’ activism.”

Professor Sheryl Hamilton, who supervised the dissertation, described working with Jess as “an absolute joy,” and was impressed with how creatively the study was designed and how persistently Jess undertook their analysis. “Feminist makerspaces turned out to be a constantly moving target of study. But at each bump along the research path, Jess retooled and rethought, as necessary, never losing her passion or the tenacity to make complex, nuanced sense of this important emerging scene.”

The 5-member examination board lauded the dissertation’s excellent writing and how skillfully it situated the contemporary domain of maker culture in historical and political contexts. Among the study’s many strengths, the examiners noted the multiple roots of maker culture and the places and spaces where it is constituted. According to Hamilton, “the resulting analysis broke new ground and offers much to scholars interested in makerspaces, alternative media practices and diverse modes of social activism.”

Ann-Louise Davidson, Director of Concordia University’s Innovation Lab and Canada Research Chair in Maker Culture, was the dissertation external examiner. In her report to the university, Professor Davidson describes how effectively it “identifies the tensions in hackerspaces where the ethos of sharing is often uncomfortably paired with the fear of having one’s ideas stolen, and the power relations that shape those spaces and interactions.”

She also reported on how impressively Jess “meshed the literature with her interview data” and how effectively they “distinguished maker practice as a job that people undertake primarily to provide subsistence, from making as a more romantic act, where people free themselves from the rigid structures of the paid economy and create more as a hobby or for pleasurable purposes.”

Jess defended their dissertation on September 10, 2021. She will officially graduate in the Fall 2021 convocation ceremony in November.

Monday, September 27, 2021 in
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