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2013 4S – Society for the Social Studies of Science

I’m giving a paper with Laura Forlano at the upcoming 4S – Society for the Social Studies of Science in San Diego, October 9-12. She will present it on our behalf as I unfortunately cannot make it to the US due to teaching commitments.

Title: Globally local, digitally material and the amateur professional: Hacking hybrid socio-technical cultures
Authors: Laura Forlano and Kat Jungnickel
Keywords: local, socio-cultural practices, digital materiality, hackerspaces, ‘do it yourself’
Abstract: This paper discusses the ways in which the socio-cultural and socio-technical practices of technologists are globally disseminated and, at the same time, locally constituted and embedded in physical places such as neighborhoods, communities and urban environments. At the same time, we discuss the ways in which digital technologies such as WiFi or hardware hacking in particular are not necessarily tools of global dissemination, and, similarly, material practices are not only locally embedded. Our study also illustrates the ways in which these practices integrate notions of ‘do it yourself’ (DIY) and homebrew practices, which might be likened to those of amateurs, as well as those of high-tech professionals. These socio-technical practices complicate earlier dichotomies of global and local (‘spaces of flows’ and ‘spaces of place’ as Castells has argued), digital and material, and amateur and professional. Rather, our research points to the ways in which hybrid categories such as the globally local, the digitally material and the amateur professional become a lived reality for members of specific kinds of communities and organizations as well as contribute to the development of digital culture more broadly. In order to support this argument, we first compare two empirical qualitative field studies of community wireless organizations in the United States and Australia between 2004-2008. We also discuss this phenomenon as it relates media labs, coworking communities, incubators and accelerators, hackerspaces and FabLabs based on a qualitative field study conducted in 2010-12.

Our talk is part of a larger stream:

From Hobby to Science Work: The Culture & Politics of Professionalized Maker Culture
Participants: Carl DiSalvo, Laura Forlano, Silvia Lindtner, Thomas Lodato

Hacker/maker culture is often associated with a DIY (do it yourself) ethos and Internet counterculture — in distinction from professionalized fields such as design, scientific research, or engineering. However, in recent years, hacker cultures and professionalized fields have been brought together through the efforts such as hackerspaces, which function as collocated laboratories for citizen science engagements, new product development, or batch-manufacturing. Events such as hackathons, start-up weekends, and accelerators allow DIY makers to move beyond a hobbyist activity and transform ideas into tangible products by exploiting an existing infrastructure of venture capital funding, corporate support and manufacturing labor. In addition to corporations, state organizations such as DARPA and governments in Asia have begun participate in these transformations in order to provide financial support for maker and DIY efforts with the goal of triggering new forms of innovation for their nations. The purpose of this panel is to bring together research that examines the conditions and issues of the transformation of hacker/maker culture from DIY endeavors to increasingly professionalized and purportedly economically-viable activities, and engages with the culture and politics of such professionalization process of the hobbyist Maker movement. We will examine how DIY maker production appropriates and remakes dominant narratives of creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship to render and for what purposes. We ask questions such as: Who is excluded and how do local manifestations of the broader movement vary? How can analytical and methodological tools from STS inform the study of interdisciplinary maker worlds that aspire to bring together science, technology and society in new ways? What digital and other material artifacts are produced along the way, where and how do they travel, and which populations are implicated in their production? We envision this panel will contribute to ongoing concerns in Digital STS and innovation studies.

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