Have we made it? A workshop on making (and) institutions

Together with Tim Jordan, I will be hosting a workshop on the institutionalisation of making and the politics of DIY on Monday, 19 September. Participation is free but registration is required. Better hurry because we opted for a small group to discuss and work on new ideas. 😉 We will get together at University College London, and those participating are in for great discussions with our speakers, makers, and artists. You can find the full programme here, and registration is now open on Eventbrite.

Continue reading

Making/Hacking as Pathways to Digital Skills and Civic Innovation: A Policy Brief

Coding is often proclaimed a key ’21 century skill’. Digital innovation is crucial for EU economies. And information technology (IT) specialists are in high demand. And yet, ensuring that citizens possess such key skills – to foster diverse participation in digital innovation and to tackle a persistent digital divide and gender-gap – is still a long way off for EU member states. To facilitate digital expertise and technological interests, we need to understand and examine where, why, and how they are acquired. Despite the ongoing professionalization of computer science education, the relevance and prevalence of informal practices for acquiring IT expertise has been frequently highlighted. Surprisingly, we know very little about exactly those informal practices of IT skills acquisition which take places in communal rather than institutional environments. My project therefore examined practices of IT learning within informal communities: it advances our understanding of how individuals learn for information technology (IT) expertise – such as coding and electronics skills – in hacker- and makerspaces as informal, communal environments. This policy brief summarises the results of my research and outlines its policy implications.

Continue reading

Hacker Cultures: Podcast

BIG thanks to Mace and Paula for making this such a fun panel, despite not being able to meet any of the presenters in person AND despite them having to record during an almost 40° day in Berlin. 😅👏

During the 4S/EASST conference “Locating and Timing Matters”, I joined a panel on “Hacker Cultures”. Topics ranged from practices of IP development and information security to matters of maintaining free/open source communities. The panel organisers, Mace and Paula, turned our talks into podcast episodes. So if you missed the conference, but want to know more about all things hacking, making, and digital DIY, you should check out Hacker Cultures: The Conference Podcast. I presented my ongoing research on hackerspaces and makerspaces, and hope you’ll enjoy listening to ‘Forget about the learning?’: On (digital) creativity and expertise in hacker-/makerspaces.

Event announcement

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected maker and hacker communities? Have individual and collective DIY practices changed due to restrictions and requirements related to the pandemic? And, if they have changed, how?

Since early 2020, maker and hacker communities – in the UK and worldwide – have produced equipment supporting pandemic control and healthcare: ranging from masks and face shields even to ventilators. Feminist hackerspaces, such as the São Paulo-based maria[lab] published educational resources on digital surveillance and domestic abuse during the pandemic. Tech-political collectives, among them the German Chaos Computer Club, outlined requirements for digital contact tracing that would safeguard civic rights. At the same time, maker communities have been struggling to survive, with income severely affected: the latter is often based on membership fees and/or paid co-working space, and is in turn used to finance shared workshops and tools. Combined with the need for social distancing, work-from-home instructions, and economic hardship becoming a harsh reality for many during the last 2 years, these sources of income have been far from stable. How are such developments shaping the ‘state of the hack (and maker) space’ more broadly? And have maker and hacker communities fared differently under these circumstances? 

The workshop takes stock of how the pandemic has affected making and hacking, has challenged and changed communal spaces, and creative and tech-political practices. It aims to relate these observations about the Covid-19 pandemic to research on hacking/making during previous crises, emergency situations, and/or otherwise challenging conditions. While avoiding pitfalls of tech-solutionist accounts and neoliberal celebrations of developments meant as makeshift solutions, the event hopes to shed light on the achievements and challenges experienced by DIY communities during the ongoing global health crisis.

Hosted by Tim Jordan (UCL) and Annika Richterich (Sussex)
The workshop was planned for August 2021, but has been postponed due to COVID-19. We’re currently looking into a new date, likely in April 2022, keep an eye on this space!
London, venue tba

This workshop was funded as part of a Marie S. Curie grant, awarded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme.

When open source hardware becomes vital

Some thoughts on the relevance of citizen scientists – hackers, makers, tech enthusiasts, DIYers – and open source hardware. Writing this commentary might have been a bit of a coping mechanism, but it nevertheless raises issues that are crucial for allowing and supporting volunteers in exploring (technological) means for fighting covid-19.

In this time of crisis, many people are willing and eager to help tackling the challenges related to covid-19. While medical staff fight the pandemic and key workers maintain indispensable infrastructures and services, also people outside of these sectors explore possibilities for contributing to emerging issues. An important domain of civic support emerges at the intersection of citizen science and ‘disaster technology’.

Disaster technology[1] refers to technological, often ad hoc developments and appropriations aimed at addressing crisis-related problems. In the context of covid-19, citizen scientists and civic collectives quickly started examining what technology would be needed and feasible for them to develop. Stories about their activities and contributions, like the example below, are more than just a silver-lining in otherwise largely devastating news: citizen scientists offer valuable local, technological support and expertise that require further attention. In this opinion piece, I therefore reflect on the relevance and implications of citizen science during the covid-19 pandemic.

Continue reading

Learning to…code with Freecodecamp

As mentioned before, I am starting a blog post series “Learning to…” in which I reflect on my experiences with learning resources for digital skills such as coding and programming. I started with Freecodecamp.org. Here are my first (early and enthusiastic) impressions and I may update this post from time to time still.

Freecodecamp is a website guiding and supporting users in learning digital skills such as coding. Apart from online courses, there are also a forum, the possibility to chat with other community members and news updates. It was founded and financed by former teacher Quincy Larson. Kudos Quincy!

Continue reading

Learning to….

As part of my research project on hacking and making as learning, I am starting a post series titled “Learning to…”. As you may know, I interview people about how they learn, for example, to code or to build electronics. But it’s one thing to talk the talk and another to walk the walk. Therefore I also want to explore what it is like to learn yourself. Among other things, I am therefore collecting online resources and participating in various online learning platforms for coding. I will also participate in courses/meetups offered by communities and not-for-profit initiatives. Let’s see if I even make it to a coding bootcamp… 😉 I will start with a reflection on my experiences with freecodecamp.org. More will follow soon.


Readings for my project

This month I finally got to start my Marie S. Curie project. During the coming two years, I will do research on hacking and making as ways of informal IT learning. But before I will jump into interviews and field work, I need an update on what has happened in the research field during the last months (while I was on parental leave). Thus I am trying to figure out where to begin and especially: what to (re-)read. I’ll start sharing my reading list here and will update it along the way.

Continue reading

Digital Society Conference: Chances, Changes, Challenges


Good morning Amersfoort! I just arrived at the Digital Society Conference and look forward to presenting my ongoing and planned research on informal learning in hackerspaces today. My project “Hacking your way to IT expertise” is one of the showcases at the information market. For those who will/have come by to take a look at (and hopefully a chat about) my project at the conference, I have put together some additional material:

  • Earlier this year (2018), I published an article on ethical considerations for researching hacker communities. In this piece, I focus particularly on how to discuss controversial content that has been shared online – for example via publicly archived mailing lists. The paper Tracing controversies in hacker communities: ethical considerations for internet research has been published in the Information, Communication & Society journal.
  • I wrote an article on hackathons, i.e. hacking-marathons, which was published in the Convergence journal in 2017. If you are interested in how individuals and groups may develop their IT skills during such events, take a look at the article: Hacking events: Project development practices and technology use at hackathons
  • Together with my UM colleague Karin Wenz, I edited a Digital Culture & Society journal issue on Making and Hacking (2017). Just like the articles above, our introduction and all other contributions are available as open access.

Pressed for time/tldr?

Less talk, more action?

  • If you want to see and experience a hacker- or makerspace, rather than hearing more about it, consider a visit. Some communities have regular, sometimes even weekly, open evenings and many participate in the yearly International Open Hackerspace Day. You can find more inforation on Dutch hackerspaces here and an international overview, provided by the community network hackerspaces.org, here.

Picture credits and thanks: The image featured above is the logo of hackerspaces.org, a network of hackerspaces. It has been retrieved from http://hackerspaces.org.