(D04)
Outlaw innovation and the invention of the outlaw
Location Bowland Hall Main Room
Date and Start Time 25 Jul, 2018 at 15:00
Sessions 1

Convenors

  • Johan Soderberg (Göteborg University) email
  • Maxigas . (Lancaster University) email

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Short abstract

The panel investigates innovation processes driven by antagonistic relations between actors on both sides of the law. Three empirical fields exemplifying this dynamic are the surge of legal highs, information security, and crypto-currencies. Other case studies of outlaw innovation are also welcomed.

Long abstract

The panel investigates innovation processes driven by antagonistic relations between actors on both sides of the law. We invite case studies of how mutual hostilities between actors are pursued through technological change, whereby each actor seeks to gain an edge against their adversary. Three empirical fields that exemplify this dynamic are the surge of legal highs, information security and crypto-currencies. More examples of the same thing can be found in other fields of empirical investigation and suit this panel. What we will examine under the label of "outlaw innovation" is how conflict breeds innovation. Related to this is an awareness of the tenuous relation between legislation and innovation. The "outlaw" is just another word for an innovator. Concurrently, however, capitalism strives relentlessly to subsume and integrate its own outside, turning this unknown into innovation and new markets. From this observation follows that the purported outsider position ascribed to various grassroots innovators, users, etc., must be scrutinized. States, capital and academic actors work in conjunction with these outlawed/independent researchers to produce a shared language of common concerns around risks and opportunities inherent in technological innovation, such as in the Tor project. The legal grey zone thus emerges as an incubator of innovation for legal businesses. We encourage paper submissions utilizing diverse theoretical approaches and a wide range of case studies to explore the concept of the "outlaw innovator".

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Narcosubmarines: outlaw innovation and maritime interdiction in the war on drugs

Author: Javier Guerrero C (Instituto Tecnológico Metropolitano) email
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Short abstract

I present an overview of the co-evolution of outlaw innovations by drug traffickers, specifically the narcosubmarines and the techniques and technologies used by the Colombian Navy to counter smugglers actions.

Long abstract

Since the early 1990s, maritime routes have been considered as the main method used by Colombian smugglers to transport illicit drugs to consumer or transshipment countries. Smugglers have developed their own kind of artifacts, the narcosubs. The Colombian Navy has adopted several strategies and adapted several technologies in their attempt to control the flows of illicit drugs.

I present an overview of the co-evolution of drug trafficking technologies and the techniques and technologies used by the Colombian Navy to counter the activities of drug smugglers. I emphasize on the process of self-building artifacts by smugglers, explained as a bricolage of local knowledge of traditional boat building with off-the-shelf technologies and in the localized character of the responses by the Navy personnel. I argue that explanations aiming to account for the process of innovation in outlaw contexts in which antagonistic relationships shape the actions of players must take into account the paradoxical and symbiotic relationship between players in the two sides.

I use insights from the STS to the understanding of the dynamics of technological change in the War on Drugs and in particular the Biography of Artefacts and Practices perspective. Innovation Studies on users innovation and STS, specifically expanding on the work by Hyysalo, Usenyuk and Whalen (Hyysalo & Usenyuk, 2015; Usenyuk, Svetlana; Whalen, 2016) is useful to understand Outlaw Innovation and provide an analysis that avoids the shortcomings that emphasise a process of pull/push with interdiction as the main driver of smuggler innovations.

Self-regulation vs. precautionary principle: governing uncertainty in and around DIY biology in Europe and North America

Author: Anna Verena Eireiner (Munich Center for Technology in Society) email
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Short abstract

This paper offers an empirical analysis of the DIY bio movement in Germany and Canada. Within the two political cultures and regulatory traditions, technological innovation is perceived radically different. This co-shapes the formation and practices of DIY biologists in both countries.

Long abstract

Bio-nerds are the new computer-nerds. In recent years growing numbers of people have started to embrace amateur, or DIY, biology. DIY biologists are dedicating themselves to the conceptualization of whole new biological systems far outside of traditional academic or corporate laboratory settings.

Although the DIY biology movement is organized internationally, we can observe great national differences in state-DIY biologist relations and regulation. In most countries, the legal situation around amateur genetic engineering is ambiguous. In contrast, Canada and Germany both regulate DIY biology rather clearly but take opposing stances.

The Canadian government offers lab certifications, one-on-one consulting and generous funding opportunities. DIY biology is celebrated as a pathway to innovation, community engagement, art and education.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the EU is in legal limbo. In a surprising move, Germany most recently banned the import of a DIY biology essential: DIY biohacking kits. This was met with global media attention and outrage from the local DIY biology communities.

While Canada interprets the risks as familiar and manageable, Germany sticks to its skeptical stance that it has established towards genetic engineering in the last decades. Meanwhile, DIY biologists in Germany and all across Europe continue their pursuit of synthetic biology in different stages of legal limbo.

This paper offers an empirical analysis of both countries as deviant cases. How is innovation governed in a situation of uncertainty? What are the underlying interpretations and how are they rooted in different political cultures? How does this impact the practices of DIY biologists? How is resistance forming?

The legal grey zone as an incubator of innovation: from drugs to pharma

Author: Johan Soderberg (Göteborg University) email
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Short abstract

The case is made that the legal greyzone serves as an incubator for innovation in the "knowledge economy". This case is made by making a comparison between the position of the hacker/filesharer in the computer industry and the drug addict in the pharmaceutical industry.

Long abstract

The outlaw position is one of standing outside and against instituions, yet it is a much celebrated trope in popular culture and in the hacker- and maker-scene. In what sense are these positions always-already incorporated into the open innovation regime of the industry, and, subsequently, the self-imagery of being "outside" a self-delusion? To investigate this question, the presentation makes a comparison between the filesharer in the computer industr, and the drug addict in the pharmaceutical industry. The claim is made that they act as lead-users in driving innovations in respective field. In the so-called knowledge economy, the legal greyzone serves as an incubator for developments in high tech industries. This should not come as a surproise, since, innovation, as such, is essentially a loophole in constituted order. Whether the goal is to circumvent a chemical definition of a controlled substance with legal hights, or a patent held by a competitors, or, an environmental regulation on the use of pesiticides, the innovator innovates to get around the law. A fuller understanding of innovation and the motor that drives it must give full recongition to conflict, antagonism and contradiction as what goes to the heart of what innovation is. This theoretical argument will be outlined in the presentation.

The social construction of risk and value in information security: recuperation versus détournement

Author: Maxigas . (Lancaster University) email
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Short abstract

This presentation narrates how risk and value is constructed in the infosec field through a series of small case studies. Hackers work in conjunction with state, capital and academia to sustain a common ecosystem around shared concerns for the material resistance of digital infrastructures.

Long abstract

Information Security (infosec) is a field where software vulnerabilities are often found by unaffiliated hackers, who can choose to use them for financial gain, reputation building or political leverage - with a wide range of consequences. States, capital and academic actors work in conjunction with these independent researchers to sustain these ecosystems, producing a shared language of common concerns around risks and opportunities inherent in technological innovation. During the last decades hacker scenes worked to legitimise offensive security research and transform vulnerability reports from a criminal offence to a valuable commodity on the market. The implementation-recuperation of these demands partly integrated the alternative engineering cultures at the periphery of the industry into the product life cycle of firms, while it also justified repression of its more politically disturbing elements.

This presentation narrates how risk and value is constructed in the infosec field through a series of small case studies.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.