(B06)
Collaboration in/with "open labs": studying the objects of boundary-making and crossing
Location Bowland North Seminar Room 23
Date and Start Time 27 Jul, 2018 at 09:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Morgan Meyer (MINES ParisTech) email
  • Evelyne Lhoste (Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire Sciences Innovations Sociétés) email
  • Luis Felipe Rosado Murillo (CNAM/IFRIS) email

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Short abstract

This panel examines the materialities and technical objects of open laboratories to analyse how boundaries are established and crossed through collaborative production. We focus on the dynamics of emergence and institutionalization "from below".

Long abstract

We are witnessing a return to questions of public participation in science and technology with the emergence of convivial spaces for collaborative work around (bio)hackerspaces, fablabs, and innovation laboratories. The importance of these spaces resides in their ongoing experimentation with alternative organizational models, collaborative-competitive arrangements, and varying degrees of openness to public participation. Assembling new sociotechnical collectives, they hold the promise of providing wider access to science and technology. Yet, they are also sites of tensions involving distinct forms of expertise at the intersections of markets, publics, and institutional politics. In this panel, we will examine the materialities and technical objects of open laboratories to analyse how boundaries are established and crossed through collaborative production. We will also focus on the dynamics of emergence and institutionalization "from below" through the collaborative work on shared technical objects and infrastructures.

We welcome contributions addressing the following questions:

- What kinds of organizations, materials, concepts, and norms do "open labs" produce?

- What kinds of expectations, promises, futures, and utopias are articulated through their material objects and practices?

- What kinds of boundary-work are made visible and invisible through processes of institutionalization?

- How do technical objects and sociotechnical practices collapse and challenge established spatial analytics of locality and globality?

- For the purposes of collaborative ethnography, how productive are terms such as "(bio)hacker", "maker", "entrepreneur", and categories such as "openness"?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Crafting education: professionalization of makers in a collaboration with schools

Author: Florian Tichy (Technical University of Munich) email
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Short abstract

This paper follows a collaboration between a FabLab and several schools. In the process the makers become professional educators, but also somewhat independent from the community of the lab. Making here becomes care work in education practices, raising tensions with the FabLab.

Long abstract

In this research I have explored an engagement of the maker movement with the education of children in the use of tools and techniques of crafting and making. Instead of the more common format of workshops, I focused on a cooperation between a FabLab and several elementary and high schools, which implements making education as an elective subject in the schools' regular schedules.

To trace this institutionalization, I follow makers in their education practices through ethnographic fieldwork and interviews. As they become full-time educators in the process and negotiate professionalization, the makers I accompany abandon other making projects. However, making stays relevant to the educators as a concept to term an aspect of education that they perceive as otherwise neglected under the conditions of the current school system in Bavaria. I argue that the makers perceive their practice as repair work on education, which becomes a matter of care to them (Puig de la Bellacasa 2010). This form of care work differs from teacher's pedagogical care insofar as it tries to address the children in less hierarchical and more affective, collaborative and material ways.

In my presentation I show boundary work of what is regarded as proper education. Making thereby becomes an emphatic concept for care in education, while the FabLab deals with tensions over the relation between making and education in general. Overall, I suggest that this case shows the open lab as a site to retain care outsourced by a more rigid organization in schools.

Organizing inclusion: getting through the borders of innovative communities

Authors: Evelyne Lhoste (Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire Sciences Innovations Sociétés) email
Marc Barbier (Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique) email
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Short abstract

The purpose of this paper is to better understand how open labs manage to resolve the tensions between democratization of innovation and the collectives that constitute them.

Long abstract

Open labs (bio/hackerspaces, fablabs, and so on) promise to democratize innovation. They transmit a rhetoric of emancipation through popular education and inclusion, that is, the ability to accommodate all human beings in their singularities. This is in tension with the exclusiveness of innovative communities made up of passionate, qualified and predominantly male experts.

To try to understand how democratization is performed, we propose to analyze the mechanisms implemented to articulate the approaches of collaboration and inclusion. This work is based on a sociological and ethnographic survey conducted since November 2012 in France (Lhoste and Barbier, 2016). It combines participant observation sessions in fablabs hosting digital fabrication workshops, interviews, participation in meetings, and data collection from websites and media. This empirical approach to practices located in time and space mobilizes innovation studies and the theory of organizations. We use the concept of project ecology (Grabher, 2004) to reveal the different levels of organization with which projects are intertwined. This author contributes to a trend that conceptualizes innovation as the product of an ecology involving a diversity of actors and knowledge production activities. We compare the organizational learning modalities in labs along three dimensions: learning in practice, autonomy of the project in relation to organizations, integration of knowledge within the project. Thus, we identify which organizations, objects and practices are produced to promote openness, what type of frontier work is made visible (or invisible), and how organizational learning among individuals, the innovation community, and organizations is articulated in projects.

Promissory equipment: the fabric of participation in DIY practices

Author: Morgan Meyer (MINES ParisTech) email
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Short abstract

This paper examines the equipment developed within DIY movements, be it in biology, medicine, ecology or agriculture. I argue that these objects act as promissory equipment, enacted through a convergence between material practices and moral visions (openness, sharing, democracy, autonomy, …).

Long abstract

DIY practices and movements have gained momentum in recent years, be it in biology, medicine, ecology or agriculture. This paper examines some of the tools and equipment developed within these movements, whether in garages, 'in the wild', at home or in open laboratories. These tools are, in a sense, 'convivial tools': equipment that is less expensive than the equipment that professional scientists use, and that is designed to be more accessible, more mobile, more transparent, more repairable and smaller. Even more so, their conviviality is not only fostered by making them 'open', but also by allowing them to be further modified and improved.

I argue that these objects come to act as promissory equipment: they are presented and circulated as success stories, they promise future, user-led innovations and serve to demonstrate the potential of DIY practices to be realized. They are particularly interesting for their evocative power, a power that arises from a convergence between material practices and moral visions (openness, sharing, democracy, autonomy, …), between the redesign of practical objects and the articulation of political objectives.

Stabilized instability. hacking tournament as a laboratory

Author: Marcin Zaród (Kozminski University ) email
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Short abstract

Capture the Flag is a tournament in hacking, revolving around breaking and defending computer systems. How this game contributes to construction of knowledge in computer security? How instability might be stabilized? Paper is based on ethnographical study of several competitions, done within ANT.

Long abstract

Capture the flag is a tournament in computer security, in which teams of hackers compete in solving tasks and attack or defense of systems. Using the Actor-Network Theory framework, the paper presents the results of ethnographical studies of such tournaments in order to reveal the mechanisms of the construction of hacking knowledge. Selected stages of tournaments are examined with this approach, from task construction through different types of competition to a write-ups and potential links between tournaments, companies, and military agencies.

By using selected concepts from laboratory studies (black boxes, stabilization, purification), the paper demonstrates the concept of stabilized instability. As a result, a new understanding of errors and black-boxes is proposed. Instability may be treated not only as a way of opening technoscientific black-boxes, but also as a product of stabilization. This concept also serves as a potential link between laboratory studies, classical studies of hackers, and contemporary social studies of technoscience of hacking.

Structures of emancipation in design-centered makerspaces

Author: Yana Boeva (York University) email
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Short abstract

This paper asks how is the idea of social emancipation translated into the materialities and practices of open labs. Drawing on fieldwork in several makerspaces with a professional design focus, it unpacks three structural aspects following Star and Ruhleder's concept of infrastructure.

Long abstract

Digital fabrication through its access within 'open labs' appears as a social emancipator. It promises to disorganize organization by reconfiguring categories like production and design, work and leisure, professional and amateur, and by blurring their boundaries. This paper broadly asks how this process translates into the materialities and practices of open labs. Specifically, it focuses on three structural aspects that emerged throughout my fieldwork in makerspaces and fab labs with a focus on professional design work. The first case examines the contradiction of work and leisure. Although making is widely popularized through the notion of leisure, open labs increasingly emphasize work-related objectives and professionalization. The second aspect looks at the visibility of financial arrangements, the governance of spaces, and the trend towards corporate partnerships. Finally, I analyze the emergence of professional associations and networks on making and digital fabrication aimed at providing support for open labs and their members. Drawing on my empirical data from several European and Canadian spaces, I unpack these aspects following Star and Ruhleder's concept of "infrastructure in relation to organized practices" (1996). The intertwinement of these aspects reveals that the idea of social emancipation of digital fabrication and making conveys frictions as is the case within my study of spaces catering facilities to professionals, yet promoting openness and inclusivity to 'everyone.' The paper argues that a proclaimed de-professionalization of design through digital fabrication and making is overthrown as traditional structures of organization shape its development.

The boundaries of open data: digitally mapping displacement as an anti-capitalist collective

Author: Erin McElroy (University of California, Santa Cruz) email
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Short abstract

Focusing upon the work of the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project - a digital cartography collective documenting gentrification struggles - this paper centers the collective's struggles with data colonialism and open data, questioning what models can be used to maintain relevance, endurance, and autonomy.

Long abstract

This paper focuses upon the work of the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project - a digital cartography and storytelling collective documenting displacement struggles upon gentrifying landscapes (AEMP). While the group attempts to retrieve, analyze, map, and make public various sets of data pertaining to eviction in the San Francisco Bay Area and more recently the cities of Los Angeles, New York, and Cluj (www.antievictionmap.com), several struggles have emerged related to the question of open data. As the AEMP is an unaffiliated activist collective comprised of technologists, cartographers, oral historians, artists, and more working outside the boundaries of academia, the non-profit industrial complex, and for-profit web-mapping worlds, it is often confronted with questions of legitimacy. Often the veracity of its data, the quality of its maps, and the deep collaborative connections it maintains with other housing activist groups foster its endurance and relevance. Yet recently academics and non-profits alike have made attempts to obtain AEMP's data for their own work without compensation or credit, thereby threatening its obsolescence. This paper situates these attempts within emergent conversations on data colonialism and open data, questioning what models autonomous collectives such as the AEMP can create and/or follow to both make its datasets accessible and germane to housing justice movements, and to maintain autonomy and endurance.

The co-laborator: place-making through laboratization practices in a living lab construction

Authors: Dara Ivanova (Erasmus University Rotterdam) email
Iris Wallenburg (Erasmus University Rotterdam) email
Roland Bal (Erasmus University Rotterdam) email
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Short abstract

This paper calls for critically examining laboratization practices and going beyond the metaphor of the laboratory in assessing trendy places with scientific allure like living labs. Laboratization practices should be examined as heterogeneous processes, where different agendas are at stake.

Long abstract

This article seeks to enrich our understanding of places as knowledge production sites. It discusses the construction process of a living lab for gathering, experimenting with, and creating knowledge for healthcare in assisted-living environments, called Nursing Home of the Future, in The Netherlands. The lab is a place-promise for experimentation that would facilitate break-through innovation, paving the way to "healthcare of the future" and it is a collaborative project between industry, university and various public agencies.

Practices of laboritization (Guggenheim 2012) must be carefully examined, as they may obscure paradoxical, but equally important makings and doings. Our interest is in the processes which lead to what Gieryn (2006: 5) calls a truth-spot - a place that becomes "the right place for the job" (ibid.). We found three themes, which emerged in this case study: social, material and economic lab-making. These three are made to converge, needing each other, so that a living lab can be created and maintained. Living labs are more than laboratories; the specificity of their liminal position between field and laboratory science is what makes them so popular, yet this positioning is problematic. As a result, living labs are made through continuously connecting different worlds.

This paper calls for critically examining laboratization practices in society and going beyond the metaphor of the laboratory (Guggenheim 2012) in assessing trendy places with scientific allure like living labs (Kavoren and van Heur 2014). Laboratization practices should be examined and understood as heterogeneous processes, where different agendas are at stake.

Turning utopias into material: spaces of cultural and technical experimentation in Helsinki

Authors: Philip Hector (Aalto University) email
Mikko Jalas (Aalto University) email
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Short abstract

This paper explores the forming of self-organized, open laboratories from the initial and variegated expectations of actors to an established practice. The study is based on three cases from Helsinki, which aim at decentralized cultural production and low-tech sustainability experimentation.

Long abstract

With an increasing number of open laboratories for cultural and technical production in place, questions arise regarding how and with what effects they come about, what they symbolize to those who partake and how they organize themselves in order to satisfy those involved.

The study will follow the process of three Helsinki based labs from the initial and diverse expectations of actors involved until the materialization of the ideas. We ask (1) how personal utopias help to create the laboratory and its practices, (2) how interests among the participants are co-aligned and materialise as collective efforts, (3) how the laboratories (re)design their infrastructure and organisational model in order to enable participation and endured existence of the initiative.

The three case studies involved are "Temporary", a one-year experiment for decentralized, cultural production, "Kuusi Palaa", its remodified successor, and finally "Third space", a campus based outdoor test side for low-tech sustainability experimenting and design-with-nature. Data will be gathered through the methods of participatory observation, interviews with initiators and new participants as well as those providing external resources.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.