tl;dr

The Workshop takes place as part of the 9th International Conference on Communities & Technologies.

Date: June 3, 2019

Time: 9.00-18.00

Place: Vienna University of Technology

The overall goal is to facilitate and further exchange between researchers, practitioners and activists in the fields of critical making, social and digital innovation, participatory design, and community management. We therefore invite the participation of researchers and practitioners!

Participant Submission Deadline: 20th April, 2019

Abstract

Critical making offers the chance to combine practices of making with critical thinking, to explore topics utilizing technologies and materials and thereby creating tangible artefacts which have a societal impact. Many of the growing number of makerspaces globally – though by far not the whole so-called „maker movement“ – foster participatory design for and with their communities to solve local problems, explicitly or implicitly basing their practices on critical design. This workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners at the 9th International Conference on Communities & Technologies to discuss emerging and evolving issues of critical making, participatory design, and maker communities. It will offer an introduction to critical making based on a short history of the maker movement, current societal impacts achieved through practices of making, as well as criticism directed towards maker culture. Together with the participants, we will look at participatory practices of critical designing and making for and with communities, and the role which makerspaces play as facilitators and drivers of these practices. Participants will share examples, best practices, tools and methods, and explore how we can better work together towards collaboratively developing theories, methods and practices, and achieving more societal impact of critical making in makerspaces around the world.

Background

We – as humans, as makers, and as researchers – live in systemically and globally challenging times which require social, environmental, technological and political innovations. The work of a growing number of Human-Computer-Interaction (HCI) and Computer-Supported Collaborative Work (CSCW) researchers revolves around the role technology can play in adapting to different patterns than those based on the assumption of infinite economic growth [4, 14, 20, 27]. We argue that critical thinking and collaboration are prerequisites for these innovations; that in technology design, they have been implemented as concepts of critical making and participatory design; and that community makerspaces are ideally situated as spaces where such collaboration for innovation grounded in specific local conditions can have positive societal impacts. 

Critical Making

Criticality in making is a relatively new concept, which so far has been practiced mostly in art and design studios and dedicated research projects conducted by academia [6, 11, 12]. Critical making is not only a critical practice of making, but also critical of the „maker culture“ and all the implications the term evokes. The biggest matters of concern are the lack of reflection, economic impact of the practice, and also diversity: The so-called „maker movement“ often is presented as open to everybody and thereby democratizing technology design [25], while in fact more often than not efforts are required to include makers who are not able-bodied, cis-gender, middle-class white men between the ages of 15 and 50 [1, 2, 13, 19]

Participatory Design

Participatory design originated in workers successfully calling for participation in the design of the systems that affect them [8]. Based on the same fundamental values of democratization and empowerment, and with technologies becoming both more ubiquitous and more accessible to more people, researchers within and beyond the field of HCI have developed frameworks and methodologies to support technology design for and with the affected communities [18, 21, 23, 24, 26, 30]. Participatory Design is at a „reflexive turn“ [3, p.27] at this moment, and we hope to contribute to the debate about its future with this workshop. We believe that practitioners and researchers of critical making and participatory design can both gain much from mutual exchange, as well as from exchange with community makerspaces on the ground.

Makerspaces

Making as a practice of Do-It-With-Others (DIWO) or Do-It-Together (DIT) instead of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) has become very popular around the world in recent years [17]. The diversity of makerspaces reflects the popularity of making as well as the diverse interpretations of the term: It is used to refer to a wide range of places, from the safe space of an activist community that utilizes practices of hacking and making, to a shared workshop where one pays for the use of machines [28, 29]. Particularly in the majority world, some makerspaces already realize their role as societal and political actors, as can be seen e.g. in the citizen-driven projects of LabCOCO at the Umbigada Cultural Center in Brazil \footnote; the Hack-a-Toy workshops offered by Engineering Good in Singapore; the ASKOtec mobile makerspace employed inter alia in refugee camps in Uganda; the i4Policy initiative which originated in Rwanda and brings together innovation communities to support governments in shaping policies; or Lifepatch, a citizen initiative exploring science and technology, experimenting with artistic forms of expression in Indonesia. While such global developments have received some attention [5, 7, 15, 16, 22, 24], mainstream debates on the societal roles of making and makerspaces can gain a lot more from them without exoticizing them.

Workshop Goals and Activities

The goal of this workshop is to facilitate and further exchange between researchers, practitioners and activists in the fields of critical making, social and digital innovation, participatory design, and community management. We want to offer a forum to discuss criticality as a starting point for a taxonomy of makers and makerspaces within what has been described as an assemblage rather than a „movement“ of makers [15].

Questions which the workshop will address include: 

  • What are the processes and societal impacts of critical making?
  • What examples of explicitly and implicitly critical making are there? What are best practices for designing programs and projects? 
  • Is making not in and of itself a critical and subversive practice, as it enables everybody to make everything? [9] Are all makers thus prone to be critical makers? Why should makers feel obliged to be critical at all?
  • What are the roles of researchers, makerspace managers, community members and makers in critical making? Why do they engage in critical making instead of „taking it all“ [10]?
  • How do affected communities participate in the design of critical making practices? How can critical making be implemented by makerspaces?
  • Can a critical approach add to more openness in maker communities?
  • Does the practice of critical making always include elements of participatory design? 
  • Can criticality lead to a more impactful understanding of makerspaces as societal and political actors?

We look forward to more questions being raised by the contributors to this workshop!

Pre-Workshop Plans

Submissions will be reviewed by the organizers, and accepted ones will be published on the workshop website. A maximum of 20 submissions will be accepted in order to enable meaningful interaction between all participants.

The workshop website will be disseminated through the organizers‘ networks and used as a platform to further global exchange and research around critical making for and with communities, also beyond the workshop. Participation in this exchange as well as the workshop itself is explicitly not restricted to authors of accepted submissions – on the contrary, we look forward to engaging with everybody who is interested in the topics. 

Workshop Structure

We propose the following workshop structure with approximate timings, taking into account breaks: 

  • Welcome and Round of Introductions (30 min)
  • Keynote by the Workshop Organizers as an introduction to the workshop topics and themes (30 min) 
  • Group session: Themes and directions emerging from submissions (30 min) 
  • Breakout sessions: Working Groups around different themes (120 min)
  • Group session: Presentation of Working Groups (60 min)
  • Breakout sessions: Plans for future activities and collaborative projects in academia and practice (60 min)
  • Wrap-up and Conclusion (30 min)

We will tailor the workshop activities in more detail around the topics and themes addressed in the submissions.

Post-Workshop Plans

Through the workshop website and the organizers‘ and participants‘ networks, we want to foster exchange on and collaboration around the topics between researchers, practitioners and activists. We propose authoring a first joint contribution to an academic journal following the workshop, to further the debate on critical making with and for communities in academia. To foster collaboration and exchange between practitioners of critical making worldwide, we offer to establish a working group within the Global Innovation Gathering (GIG) network and utilize its existing infrastructures. Networked activities can involve but are not limited to: co-creating, sharing and remixing open-source methodologies, e.g. in the form of project documentations, toolkits or card decks; organizing (virtual) events together where critical makers can meet; co-designing and collaboratively conducting projects; telling engaging stories of critical making and communities.  

About the Organizers

Regina Sipos holds M.A. degrees in Communications, Dutch Philology and Education and is a research associate and PhD candidate at the Institute of Vocational Education and Work Studies, Technical University Berlin. Her research focuses on grassroots, community driven social innovation, appropriate and open source technology, critical making and connected communities. She is also the Founder and Director of the Social-Digital Innovation Initiative, focused on bringing together social entrepreneurs and free and open source software and hardware communities, and helping them create technology supported social innovation worldwide.

Victoria Wenzelmann holds M.A. degrees in Cultural Anthropology and African Studies and is a research associate at the Institute for Information Systems and New Media, University of Siegen. Her research focuses on ecosystems for social and technological innovation, (mobile) labs and learnspaces, as well as participatory design. She is also a member of the executive board of GIG the Global Innovation Gathering, a network of social and technological innovators from around the world, many of whom practice critical making.

Inviting Participation

This one-day workshop aims to provide a forum for researchers, practitioners, and activists to discuss and extend current concepts regarding critical making for and with communities. This will be used to inform the further development of critical making and participatory practices of making with affected communities.

We invite anyone interested in participating to submit via email a position paper of maximum four pages (ACM Extended Abstract format), or alternatively – for those with no academic background – a critical essay, piece of photo journalism, audio podcast, or video documentary. All submissions should reflect on how the authors‘ research, activities or interests address issues related to critical making for and with communities. Authors‘ prior experience does not have to be specifically concerned with critical making, makerspaces or participatory practices, but the submissions will be expected to demonstrate how their work is relevant to the workshop topic and can be applied within the workshop context. We will share the Call for Contributions to this workshop with our networks of researchers, practitioners and activists. 

A maximum of 20 participants will be selected by the organizers to present and publish their work based on the contributions‘ relevance to the workshop themes, quality of submission and potential to stimulate discussion. The workshop papers will be published on the workshop website. We will discuss possible further publications, e.g. in a special issue of a relevant journal, during the workshop. 

In order to ground the discussions in practice, we particularly encourage participation from non-academic practitioners, and therefore will contact relevant communities, ranging from global to local makerspaces in and near Vienna.

Important Dates

  • Participant Submission Deadline: 20th April, 2019
  • Notification of Acceptance: 27th April, 2019
  • Workshop: 3rd or 4th June, 2019

Literature

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Contact Us

To contact us, just write an Email to sipos [at] tu-berlin.de and/or victoria.wenzelmann [at] uni-siegen.de