Politics and communities of innovation in contemporary China (2016-2019)

The research project is built around an ethnography of three makerspaces in the cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen as well as their respective annual maker faires. These hybrid and dynamic communities exhibit unique technical, commercial and social characteristics. The « bottom-up » study of these spaces will allow to describe their functioning, movement and interaction with the Chinese State apparatus and innovation policies. Building on fieldwork the analysis will look at the creation of social relationships, work and business models as well as the degree of autonomy in these organizations. These autonomous urban spaces shed light on the role of potential citizen participation in the creative process. They also illustrate the Chinese State’s co-optation of new classes and the priority given to innovation and economic reform.

Source of financing: SNF

Current research team: Florence Graezer Bideau, Marc Laperrouza, Syan Xu, Clément Renaud and Monique Bolli

Partners: MIT, Tsinghua University, University of Michigan

Recent publications:

  • Renaud Clément, Graezer Bideau Florence and Marc Laperrouza (eds). (2020). Realtime: Making Digital China. Lausanne, EPFL Press. (see here)
  • Graezer Bideau Florence. (2020). “Planning: from model to modules” in Renaud Clément, Graezer Bideau Florence and Marc Laperrouza (eds).). Realtime: Making Digital China, pp. 41-59. Lausanne, EPFL Press.
  • Graezer Bideau Florence et Clément Renaud. (2020). “Le maker, construction d’une figure politique de l’innovation en Chine urbaine”, [En ligne], Travaux, 2020 | Mis en ligne le 28 février 2020, consulté le 28.02.2020. URL : ; DOI : 10.26151/

PhD Thesis :

  • Monique Bolli. “Liminality, ephemerality and marginality with impact. Makerspaces in the Chinese urban fabric with examples from Shanghai, Shenzhen, Beijing and Addis Ababa” directed by Florence Graezer Bideau (Institute for Area and Global Studies, EPFL), EPFL Thesis n° 7765, defended on March 27, 2020.


  • Workshop “How to study makerspaces?”, 18-19 May 2017, Renens, Switzerland
  • «Encountering cultures of making in China: narratives and practices of co-creative communities », #Chinacreative: Users, Makers, Dreamers, a Workshop on Vernacular Creativity and Beyond, October 4-5, 2018. University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.