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Accepted Contribution:

Infrastructuring public engagement with near-future technologies through prototyping kits – the case of Wijkbots  
Tomasz Jaskiewicz (Hogeschool Rotterdam) Iskander Smit (Cities of Things foundation) Peter Troxler (Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences)

Short abstract:

This paper discusses how shared prototyping, specifically through the "Wijkbot kit" for urban robots, can democratize AI and robotics. It highlights the potential of prototyping kits in engaging the public with complex technologies, fostering an inclusive approach to future technology development.

Long abstract:

The rapid advent of emergent technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics heralds significant societal transformations. However, their complexity, opacity, and monopolization by large corporations pose substantial challenges for public and regulatory control. This paper explores how shared prototyping practices can contribute to democratising such technologies. presented work is grounded in Dewey's philosophy of “learning by doing” and “research through design” approach where prototypes are seen as means for learning and knowledge generation. In the paper we investigate the “Wijkbot kit”, a tool designed for the rapid prototyping of full-scale autonomous urban robots . It serves as a case study to investigate the qualities and dimensions of using prototyping kits for infrastructuring public engagement with near-future technology, under the emblem of “civic prototyping”. Through this lens, the paper aims to contribute to the discourse on how prototyping kits can facilitate a broader understanding and democratization of complex technologies. It argues for the strategic use of prototyping kits as a means to bridge the gap between emergent technological innovations and public engagement, thereby fostering an inclusive approach to the design and development of future technologies. This practice of accessible creative prototyping offers individuals the means to shape the role of technology in fostering what is termed as “democracy in the small”, hence rendering the fixed roles of (design) researcher and the test subject completely fluid. The creative prototyping helps understanding the contemporary things that combine surface-level simplicity with back-end hidden complexity.

Combined Format Open Panel P130
The 'kit economy' and the co-production of technology. From theory to practice.
  Session 1 Wednesday 17 July, 2024, -