Accepted Paper:

Taking responsibility together: unpacking promises and problems in civic hacking  


Sung-Yueh Perng (Tunghai University)

Paper short abstract:

Civic hacking as a practice of taking responsibility together produces promises a collaborative future and also problems concerning forms of expertise, knowledge and responsible sociotechnical relations that become prioritised. The paper explores these issues with case studies in Dublin and Boston.

Paper long abstract:

Civic hacking promises the possibilities where participants with different knowledge, skills, experiences and perspectives can work collaboratively to produce ideas and prototypes that address societal problems. By way of prototyping, civic hacking thus provides its participants the opportunity to take responsibility for one another. The participants seek to understand the difficulties of other society members, propose possible technologies to address them, and negotiate with oncoming problems as the participants work with other social organisations to develop prototypes. Taking responsibility in this way thus brings hopes for a more collaborative making of technology, an appreciation of diverse forms of knowledge and expertise, and a widened perception of what counts as valuable.

However, taking responsibility in civc hacking also produces uncertainties and problems. The temporality of civic hacking can affect how responsibility is exercised. Short, intense events (e.g. hackathons) and initiatives taking a longer-term approach, e.g. Code for Ireland, equally face the question concerning the production of lasting sociotechnical arrangements to sustain responsible relations. Also, these events and initiatives need looking after where human, financial and technological resources have to be in place for civic hacking to continue. The sources of these resources can shape the commitments to be fulfilled and subsequently affect how responsible relations are exercised; for whom they are arranged; and whose expertise, knowledge, vision and agenda are prioritised.

Drawing on case studies on Dublin and Boston, this paper explores these issues and also further asks how might civic hacking tell about alternative arrangements for responsible innovation.

Panel C17
Moving together: problematizing the makings of togetherness