Anticipating FabLabs? Grassroots Technology Networks in 1980s London

Though largely forgotten now, Technology Networks were community-based prototyping workshops supported by the Greater London Council from 1983 until 1986. The aim was to bring together the ‘untapped skill, creativity and sheer enthusiasm’ in local communities with the ‘reservoir of scientific and innovation knowledge’ in London’s polytechnics.

The workshops emerged out of a movement for socially useful production committed to more democratic forms of innovation. In many respects, the aspirations for these workshops anticipated hopes currently invested in FabLabs today. Obviously, the world is quite different now, as are the technologies, social networks and opportunities available. Nevertheless, it is fascinating to look back at these networks. Attached here is a promotional booklet that described the networks in 1984. Adrian Smith is currently revising a history of the Technology Networks hopefully for publication in the Journal of Peer Production in July 2014. This forms part of our research into grassroots innovation movements in historical perspective, and provides valuable perspective to our work on grassroots digital fabrication.