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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

CfP: Inequalities and Divides in Digital Cultures

Pablo Abend (University of Siegen) and I wrote a call for abstracts on “Inequalities and Divides in Digital Cultures”. For a Digital Culture & Society journal issue, we are looking for contributions that approach related topics from various, (inter-)disciplinary perspectives. Paper proposals (abstracts) may be related to the three themes described below. But we likewise welcome contributions moving beyond these. Do you conduct research on relevant issues and do you have an idea for a paper? We’d love to hear from you! Initial abstracts are due on Friday, 17th August.

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Geographies of Digital Culture

Very happy to find this in the post today: Geographies of Digital Culture, edited by Tilo Felgenhauer und Karsten Gäbler from Friedrich Schiller University Jena. The volume includes a great, critical introduction by the editors, reflecting among other things on matters of “spatial justice” (Soja 2010). The book emphasizes geographic aspects of digital culture: it sheds light on how digital technology becomes part of everyday practices – across various geographical but also historical contexts. I contributed a chapter on “Digital Health Mapping” (which I mentioned earlier on this blog). I am particularly glad to be part of this publication, as it pays attention to subjectivities and identities as well as politics and inequalities of digital culture. Feel free to get in touch if you’d like a pre-print or a scan of my chapter.



Wikipedia as educational tool

On Saturday, 4th November 2017, I will give a talk on Wikipedia as educational tool in university courses. My presentation will be part of the 2017 Wikimedia conference in Utrecht. I was delighted to be invited as speaker and look forward to the conference! Here’s a summary of my talk:

At Maastricht University, Vivian van Saaze and I organised a skills training on Wikipedia. It was part of the course “Sharing cultures” in the M.A. programme “Media Culture”. The skills training was offered twice so far, in autumn 2015 and 2016. In her lecture, Annika Richterich will present some insights into using Wikipedia as educational tool for university courses. The course “Sharing cultures” introduces students to practices of sharing facilitated by digital platforms and social media. The Wikipedia skills training had three main objectives: 1) to allow students to explore a form of digital knowledge sharing; 2) to familiarise them with principles of encyclopaedic writing; 3) to acquaint them with the use of MediaWiki and Wiki markup. Students wrote (or contributed to) a Wikipedia article on a concept relevant to the course theme, such as “sharing economy” or “collaborative consumption”. A main idea for the skills training was that students would not only encounter Wikipedia as online environment, but would gain insights into the knowledge sharing practices and communal dynamics underpinning this environment. In this form, the skills training would not have been possible without the support of dedicated Wikipedia volunteers, among them the users Romaine, Dick Bos, Taketa and WeeJeeWee. They joined the skills tutorials and shared their technical as well as practical knowledge. The Wikimedians helped students understand the work of the Wikimedia foundation and Wikipedia as community.

You can find the conference programme and more information on the event here.