Interview with Johan Söderberg

Your article focuses on electronic machines capable of producing objects. What is it ?

The key principle of 3D printers is to guide the movement of a machinery tool with software. 3D printers work like regular printers, but in three dimensions: layer by layer, a nozzle moves on three axes and extrudes a material, most often a synthetic resin, shaping an object specified in a digital file, until the desired volume of resin has been deposed. From doorknobs to parts for bikes, the kind of objects that can be produced are multiplying.

What are the actors of these innovations? What is their vision of society?

Initially, a 3D printer for home use was developed by a community of hobbyists, and the project went by the name « rep-rap ». Since 2009, a rapidly expanding consumer market in 3D printers have attracted a number of companies, resulting in an increased number of conflicts within the community. For the hobbyists, or at least for the more idealistic among them, the goal with Rep-rap was to disrupt the market in consumer goods by allowing everyone to manufacture their own objects at home, rather than having to buy the products in a store.

You talk about illusory emancipation. Can you tell us a bit more?

In fact, the title was decided by the editor. But it is true that we must be aware of the hyperbole surrounding this technology nowadays. What interests me the most, however, is not to debunk the myths, but trying to understand why the notion that emancipation can be achieved through technology is plausible to so many people. As is often the case, the hobbyists who pioneered the technology have high hopes, eccentric but sincere, about the political consequences that will follow from the spread of 3D printers. Subsequently, both their technology and the hopes they invested in this technology have been appropriated by start-up firms and venture capitalists. However, the kind of social change that a technology might contribute to will be radically different depending on whether the machine has been designed by a network of hobbyists or by a company. The emancipatory hopes invested in 3D printing now seems like a distant dream because the idealists and their technology have quickly been marginalized by firms and commercial alternatives.


Johan Söderberg was post-doc at IFRIS and LATTS research unit. His research focuses on a comparison between two cases of regulation of ‘irresponsible’ innovation: open source and legal highs. In March 2011, Johan has defended his thesis in the Department of sociology of Gothenburg, Sweden, on the topic of « Free Software to Open Hardware – Critical Theory on the Frontiers of Hacking »

« Imprimantes 3D, dernière solution magique. Illusoire émancipation par la technologie », Le Monde diplomatique, January 2013, n° 706, p. 3

Entretien avec Johan Söderberg

Votre article porte sur des machines électroniques capables de produire des objets. De quoi s’agit-il ?

Le principe clé des imprimantes 3D est de guider les mouvements d’un outil mécanique à l’aide d’un logiciel. Elles fonctionnent comme des imprimantes régulières, mais en trois dimensions : passage après passage, une buse se déplace sur trois axes et superpose des couches de matière, le plus souvent une résine synthétique, en suivant un modèle numérisé, jusqu’à obtention du volume désiré. De la poignée de porte au vélo, les objets ainsi produits se multiplient.

Quels sont les acteurs de ces innovations ? Quel est leur projet de société ?

Les premiers acteurs à s’intéresser à cette technologie, et plus particulièrement à l’imprimante 3D RepRap, appartiennent à une communauté d’amateurs. Mais ce marché en pleine expansion suscite également l’intérêt des entreprises depuis 2009, avec pour conséquence une multiplication des conflits au sein de la communauté. Pour les amateurs, ou tout au moins les plus idéalistes d’entre eux, le but initial était de bouleverser le marché de l’ensemble des produits de grande consommation en permettant à tout le monde de fabriquer ses propres objets, plutôt que de les acheter en magasin.

Vous parlez d’émancipation illusoire. Pouvez-vous nous en dire un peu plus ?

Pour tout vous dire, c’est l’éditeur qui a choisi ce titre ! Mais il est vrai qu’il faut garder à l’esprit l’hyperbole qui entoure cette technologie. Ce qui m’intéresse le plus, ce n’est pas de briser les mythes, mais d’essayer de comprendre pourquoi l’idée d’une émancipation par la technologie est plausible pour beaucoup de gens. Comme c’est souvent le cas, le réseau d’idéalistes à l’origine de cette technologie a émis des affirmations parfois excentriques, mais toujours sincères, sur les conséquences politiques liées à l’imprimante 3D. Par la suite, leur technologie, ainsi que les espoirs qui y étaient associés, ont été récupérés par des startups et des capitaux à risque. Bien que la technologie reste la même, le potentiel d’exploitation des imprimantes 3D peut être radicalement différent selon qu’elles soient développées par un réseau d’idéalistes ou une entreprise. L’émancipation a cela d’illusoire que les idéalistes et leur technologie seront très vite marginalisés par des machines à visée commerciale.

Johan Söderberg est post-doctorant à l’IFRIS et au Laboratoire Techniques, Territoires et Sociétés (LATTS). Ses recherches portent sur une comparaison entre deux cas de régulation d’innovation « irresponsable » : le partage de fichiers et les drogues légales. En mars 2011, Johan a soutenu sa thèse au département de sociologie de Göteborg, en Suède, sur le thème Du logiciel libre au matériel d’exploitation libre : théorie critique sur les frontières du piratage

« Imprimantes 3D, dernière solution magique. Illusoire émancipation par la technologie », Le Monde diplomatique, janvier 2013, n° 706, p. 3

EPOG Erasmus Mundus Master

Issues and challenges raised by the financial, economic and social crisis, as well as the dynamics of rapid catch-up initiated by a number of major southern countries and by environmental issues, require a consistent rethinking of the basis of economic policies and imply an increasing need for well integrated economic expertise for the management of these policies.

The main objective of the EPOG Master’s Course is to give birth to a new generation of international experts for public and private sectors, able to define and assess economic policies, and evolve within different political, social and regional contexts. It thus aims to provide not only an expertise in a specific field of economic policy (as usually done in existing Masters in economics) but also to enable students to get a global perspective on interdependencies and interactions between economic policies.

Most Master’s degrees in economics focus on very narrow fields or specific regions of the world. The added value specific to the EPOG Master’s course is its provision of the dual skill of expertise in a particular field and the ability to deal with the complex and systemic dimensions of economic policies, which to our knowledge is not provided by any other European Master’s course in economics. The EPOG Master’s will (i) provide students with in-depth skills to deal with different economic areas that generally require specialised training and (ii) include multidisciplinary contributions (law, sociology, geography and history, etc.) all of which are necessary for proficiency in economic policies in the context of current changes in the global economy.

EPOG programme is based on the specific institutional and holistic approaches of economic policies and achieved thanks to the collaboration and complementarities of eight prestigious universities, which offer excellent, recognised and well established Master’s courses:

  • Université Paris 13 – Sorbonne Paris Cité (France)
  • Università degli studi di Torino (Italy)
  • Berlin School of Economics and Law (Germany)
  • Kingston University (United Kingdom)
  • University of Witwatersrand (Wits) (South Africa)
  • University of Massachusetts – Amherst (USA)
  • Seoul National University (South Korea)
  • Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)

For further information, see the page dedicated to the Masters of IFRIS.

DIM IS2-IT Annual Conference

Hosted by the Regional Council of Ile-de-France, the last annual conference of DIM IS2 – IT was held on April 18 and 19, 2013, on the theme of The irresistible rise of academic capitalism?

A few months after the foundation of higher education and research, this Conference aimed to bring together researchers in social sciences, higher education and research actors, and citizens concerned to discuss the issues of the structural changes that are underway.

IFRIS Annual Conference 2013

The 2013 IFRIS annual conference took place on January 22nd, in the Cité internationale universitaire de Paris, room David-Weill.

Morning Program

09.00-09.15  Welcome

09.15-09.30  Introduction by Pierre-Benoît Joly

09.30-11.00  Conference by David Edgerton (Imperial Secondary school): The shock of ancient
Respondents: Jean-baptist Fressoz and Pierre-Benoît Joly

11.00-11.30   Break

11.30-13.00   Conference by Barry Bozeman (University of Georgia): The public stocks of science
Respondents: Pascal Petit and Philippe Larédo

13.00-14.30   Lunch Break

Afternoon Program

14.30-16.00   Session 1 – Innovations and markets construction
Jean-Paul Gaudillière and Aurélie Delemarle

16.00-16.30   Break

16.30-18.00   Session 2 – Economic knowledge and public policy
Benjamin Coriat, Michel Armatte and Benjamin Lemoine
18.00-19.00   Cocktail

Getting to the Cite? internationale universitaire de Paris

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