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The 'kit economy' and the co-production of technology. From theory to practice. 
Sebastien Shulz (IFRIS, Université Paris-Est)
Aurélien Béranger (Costech Lab, Université de Technologie de Compiègne)
David Flacher
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Combined Format Open Panel

Short Abstract:

From self-assembly cell phones to 5G telecommunications towers, construction kits are emerging as a significant force in technology co-production. We propose to explore the political and sociotechnical challenges of what we term the 'kit economy' through a practical workshop and two academic panels.

Long Abstract:

From self-assembly cell phones to objects created in makerspaces utilizing digital technologies like 3D printers and laser cutters, not to mention the recent 5G telecommunications towers, the role of construction kits in the co-production of technologies is increasingly prominent. We propose to discuss the emergence of what we term the 'kit economy.'

While the concept of a 'kit economy' may appear clear-cut at first glance, it gives rise to substantial economic, technological, and political issues. Construction kits seem to play an ambivalent role in the broader transformation of production concerning the design, manufacturing, and maintenance of technical objects. On one hand, they seem to enhance productive capitalism by accelerating material flows through streamlined supply chains and capturing consumer-generated value. On the other hand, they open up new avenues for knowledge dissemination and distributed manufacturing, paving the way for more ecological and collaborative modes of production. Despite the significant issues it raises, the implications of a kit economy remain relatively unexplored in the field of science and technology studies.

This combined open panel format aims to explore the theoretical and practical implications of the kit economy in the co-production of technology. The first panel will feature academic papers that have conducted fieldwork across a broad spectrum of activities related to technological kits, such as designing, documenting, marketing, assembling, and recycling. The second session will take place at, or in collaboration with, a fablab in Amsterdam (Waag Futurelab), involving academics and practitioners in a hands-on workshop for the construction of an actual technological kit, as a collective ethnographic exercise. The third panel will conclude by welcoming academic papers on political and organizational implications, contributing to the development of a theoretical framework for the 'kit economy'.

Accepted contributions: