From Open Science to Open Sound..

I am always looking for ways to use the data and results coming from my research field differently and more artistically. That’s why we set up a “Call for Contributions” at our Summer School last year at the MCTS.  We tried to open up common forms of doing research through a more experimental approach and invited every participant to hand in artworks like videos, paintings, collages, poems, sound, and so on, that would represent core aspects of their research.

In this context, a PhD fellow at my university and me decided to use records that I collected at my first ethographic fieldwork and created a soundcollage out of them. We tried to experiment with the intersection of human and non-human elements, the normal and the abnormal and therefore cut out sounds coming from machines like a 3D printer or from my daily way to the Makerspace, walking along the street. We used common production techniques like reverb, EQ or loop in order to re-assemble sounds and noises, now appearing as a new beat or melody. That way, we believe, even research objects can come to life.

Now, as being part of the Wikimedia fellowship, I start to reflect on this approach even more, understanding this as a form of Open Science and “science communication”. Therefore I would now like to publish this soundcollage online, making it public and accessible to everyone interested in both arts/music and scientific research. This could then function as a way of crossing open science with open sound production.

Challenges for Open Science

Last week, I wrote about the interview guidelines I published on Zenodo. They are meant to be shared and used by other researchers for interviews at Makerspaces or peer production labs. This is an example for Open Methodology, which aims at a greater distribution and reproducibility of data sets and research methods. While there was interest from a student at the Hannover University to use my guideline for one of her courseworks, I realized how this sharing process can still become difficult.

It worked quite well for the student to access my guidelines and to use them for her interview study. Yet, we decided to share both the interview guideline and the final interview, which the student wanted to conduct at the Hafven. I was already unsure beforehand how to actually deal with ethical concerns and the consent form to be filled out by the interview partner. And as it turned out, the partner the student interviewed felt uncomfortable with having her interview shared with other researchers. She did not want to have this raw material to be seen, accessed if not used and analysed for other research purposes the interviewee does not know about. So in the end, unfortauntely we did not fully succeed in opening up the usual process of interviewing and assessing the data.

So I am wondering how this issue can be actually circumvented in order to still support Open Science?

Doing Open Science? Writing an Open Access Article

After having finished the fieldwork at the Maker Lab, I am currently reviewing the data from my last two stays at Makerspaces in Berlin and Munich.  There, I did not only gain data through interviews but I additionally collected information by taking fieldnotes. These different sources of material now allow me to prepare an article I am planning to submit for the Journal of Peer Production. This Journal is an Open Access Journal and even has an open peer process. In this way, all of the submission and review process can be traced back and will be finally published on their website. Unlike more traditional journals in the field of social/human sciences that leave the review process inaccessible, the Journal of Peer Production can be seen as a great and innovative way to support the opening of human/social sciences. I am therefore quite excited about the article, as well as about how this can contribute to a more “Open Science” in the realm of sociology and history (of science and technology).

In the name of Open Science: Guidelines for Interviews

In the context of my Fellowship at Wikimedia, I am trying to share raw data that I’ve gained during the internship and fieldwork at the Maker Lab. This goes in line with the idea of Open Science, seeking to collect, publish, share and use data from different actors that want to create a more transparent and “open” knowledge production.

For this reason I started to publish the guidelines for interviews that I conducted in December. Now they can be accessed and downloaded on Zenodo in order to be used for further research purposes. This has already been done by a student from the Hannover University, with whom I was in touch through my mentor. The student used the interview guideline for her interview at the Hafven in order to collect data for an essay she has to write in one of her courses.

 

Integrating Political Statements into Material?

Last week, I had an interview with a product designer who participates at the regular meetups in the Maker Lab. I got very fascinated by her work, in which she tries to use novel technology to point to current socio-political issues. She showed me one of her dresses she made. The dress is equipped with sensors and lights that report the number of sexual harassments of women in Mexico City. The designer thereby emphazised how important it still is to raise awareness of women’s role and and their bad treatment in the Global South. With this example, the interviewee showed me how it is indeed possible to integrate one’s own political statement into material or technology.  This is a very interesting aspect of the Maker Lab and I am curious as to how this kind of workshop can develop into a place for political or activist practices. And moreover, it needs to be found out what understanding of “politics” and also “critique” the members of such community have.

 

Commercial vs. Community?

At one of the last meetups, we were talking about the differences between the Makerspaces and FabLabs that Berlin has to offer.  The community at the Maker Lab Berlin is closely connected to the people from the FabLab as I find out during the meetup. I therefore ask what it is that makes the Lab different and special compared to other spaces like the FabLab.  And I am curious about what the community thinks about it. One of the reasons why a lot of the Lab members decided to join the community is that the FabLab is too far away from their home. “It’s not worth going all the way down to the FabLab, only for printing one small piece at the 3D printer” is one answer they gave me. I ask what they think about the prices at the FabLab and tell them about my first fieldwork I did at a rather commercially, economically-oriented Makerspace. One girl answers and points to the problem of too high costs. The FabLab would be too commercial for her. I show interest and want to know why she then thinks this Lab is different. “My feeling is that this place is more interested in building up a community” This is a very interesting aspect since I thought the FabLab would be a place for community-building, as well. Is there an immediate contrast between Fablabs being more commercial and those that put more emphasis on the community itself?

A Laser Cutter for artistic experimentation

Last time at the Maker Lab, the community started building up the LaserSaur. The LaserSaur is an open source Laser Cutter that you can build up yourself via online instructions. It usually comes with a lot of boxes and packages filled with building components that need to be put together. The guys organizing the Lab have already prepared the room and provided it with the tools and material needed. There are quite a few people waiting for them to start working. During the first session, we already realize that there are a few tricky parts that require a lot of precision. It nevertheless didn’t hinder the people from getting started. I am surprised by their enthusiasm and very high motivation. And I am wondering why the community has decided to use the open source version and what they are going to use the LaserSaur for. Apparently, there must be more behind „just building technology“. During the meeting I therefore ask one of the guys: „What are you actually going to use the Laser Cutter for?“ The guy hesitates and repeats my question. „What are we going to use the Laser Cutter for? … humm … surely for … arts“ This has become very obvious during the last meetups. This Maker Lab is indeed a very interesting place for artists and creative minds. He goes on by emphazising the importance of experimentation and curiosity. „The aim is to support arts and to let the community use the stuff and the tools we have here. So that they can be creative“, he says. The other people agree. Accordingly, being part of the Maker Lab does not only mean to get in touch with new technology. It moreover is about unfolding one’s own creativity and artistic side.

Critique in (Critical) Making?

When looking for Makerspaces being associated with a critical mindset and the intersection arts – technology, I came across a Maker Lab in Berlin, which seemed to be an ideal space for my second ethnography. Their website posits:

Applying critical thinking, we aim to reflect new trajectories based on the consequences of producing plastic artifacts and consuming natural resources but, above all, question how re-define an understanding of the role and responsibilities of makers in the contemporary culture.

Before, I only knew about Matt Ratto’s Critical Making Lab that has its base in Toronto, Canada. Being located in an academic environment (it is based at the University of Toronto), the Critical Making Lab seeks to critically analyse materials, designs and outcomes that have been produced there. By providing space for participants to collectively make, share, collaborate and think (theoretically and practically), Critical Making can be understood as an alternative approach of Making, „conceptualizing and investigating the critical social, cultural, and political issues that surround and influence the movement of information processing capability into the physical environment“.

In this context, my current stay at the Makerspace therefore seeks to engage with the question of the political and the critical in the context of „Making“. Can a Makerspace become a space for critical if not political engagement? And if so, to what extent and with what effects? What does „critical“ mean in the context of the Makerspace I observe in Berlin? And who and what is involved in such critique?

Documenting Fieldwork

This blog is about the politics of technology and arts in the field of Making, Hacking and Citizen Science. With a particular focus on the intersection between politics, technology and arts, it seeks to document ethnographic fieldwork that has been done at a Makerspace in Berlin.

I started the fieldwork in November 2016, following a group of people that is involved in building up a Maker Lab. Their main aim is to create a community-based space for artists, designers and creative people that are interested in new, modern technology. In light of my PhD thesis, I currently research the question as to how workspaces and workshops can function as a platform for political debates and what the intersection politics, arts and technology means in this context. This would not only adress actors and social groups or collectives but, more generally, the socio-material setting, thus, the politics of technology, space or infrastructures alike. For one month I will follow the community in order to document my observations, questions that arise and also first results that I’ve gained during my fieldwork.

With the support of the Fellowprogram „Freies Wissen“ by the Stifterveband and Wikimedia, I will publish my first thoughts and ideas on this blog. This is not only to provide an exchange with the (non-) scientific community, but moreover aims this blog to promote the idea of Open Science and Open Knowledge.