I am very pleased to be part of an upcoming Goldsmith’s conference – Making and Opening: Entangling design and Social Science. – on Friday 24th September. The event seeks to explore the intersection of social science and design and features an inspiring group of presenters from different fields.
How might design and social science speak to each other’s practices?
How might social science and design remake one another’s objects?
I will be responding to a paper on making and method by Bill Gaver, Professor of Design at Goldsmiths. This one day conference is full, but there will no doubt be lots of documentation available afterwards.
I am excited to be asked to submit a chapter to a new book called Open Waves Freeways: Approaches to free wireless networks on WiFi edited by Yann Bona and Efraín Foglia. It will be published later this year under a Creative Common license.
This publication debates and focuses on the construction of open networks which use wireless technology without rejecting the possibilities now staring to be available concerning the use of optical fiber. The concept of open network refers to the use of any technology providing a sustainable solution which allows increasing degrees of freedom for knowing, accessing and modifying a telecommunication network.
Communication has become central to our information societies. Nevertheless, boundaries between public policy, engineering, urban planning and activist groups are constantly being shaped by agreements or disagreements on how, why and who should be able to build, manage and access telecommunication infrastructures. There are different ways to face the existing diversity within Europe as far as its legal, methodological and conceptual nature, despite common European directives.
Whether we think of a scarce resource to be regulated by a restricted cluster of actors or by an open spectrum, it remains unclear how these different actors interact and posit their arguments.
Here is an abstract for my proposed chapter:
Wireless enculturation: The role of the BBQ in the making of an Australian WiFi network
What does the BBQ have to do with WiFi? This chapter uses the BBQ as a lens to examine how an Australian wireless community innovates, contends with technological uncertainty and continues to expand coverage and membership. It argues that developing an understanding of the distinctive spirit of community WiFi in specific places, as it is produced in the nuance and texture of ordinary activities, is vital not only for understanding how technical systems emerged in the first place and continue to operate but is imperative for fostering similar arrangements in the future.
From bedrooms and backyards to the rooftops of public schools and local hospitals, the eclectic range of informal places, times and encounters in and through which community WiFi networks are made present a strikingly different vision of new technology development to conventional models. Instead of negotiating access to a sterile laboratory or corporate office filled with carefully catalogued materials, expensive machinery and appropriately attired technicians engaged in hierarchical practice, community WiFi members make use of a heterogeneous assemblage of unstable actors to produce and reproduce networks that are indubitably socially derived, culturally shaped and deeply embedded in the local environment. Yet, despite successfully running for over a decade, surprisingly little is known of how these systems are actually made and the social and cultural influences that shape them.
This chapter attempts to address this gap by focusing closely on a critical social space that emerged regularly during an eighteen-month ethnography of the largest community wireless group in Australia, located in Adelaide, South Australia. During this period, BBQs were a frequent part of monthly meetings, antenna installation sessions and public information open days. So customary were these events that I began to ask: What bearing does the BBQ have, if any, on who makes WiFi, where and how it is made? What can it tell us about the nature of community networking in Australian culture? My analysis contributes to the idea that technologies are firmly embedded in distinctive social, spatial and cultural environments, and if we are to understand them we need to examine the many forms they take in different contexts (Miller and Slater 2003; Wakeford 2003; Goggin 2004, 2007; Ito et al 2005). It draws on the work of science and technology studies (STS) writers who argue that unremarkable artefacts and systems make explicit the familiar and taken-for-granted ways in which people make sense of and operate in everyday life (Star 1991, 1999; Latour 1992; de Laet and Mol 2000; Michael 2000; 2006; Mol 2002). This chapter is premised on the idea that it is precisely because the overlooked and trivialised characteristics of new technologies yield such sharp contrast to conventional accepted models of production and distribution that they are critical to understanding them.
I designed these cards for fieldwork in Hull. The first is an intro to the project and invitation to participate. We handed these to cyclists, left them in bike shops and attached them to parked bikes throughout the city. The second was designed for use at the Lord Mayor’s parade on Saturday 15th May. We shared a stall with the Hull City Council (HCC) Sustainable Travel Officer located in front of a well-signed transport bus. We asked local cyclists what they liked and disliked about cycling in Hull and if they wanted to participate further in the study. The response was terrific. We ran out of cards. (It helped, of course, that HCC was giving away a range of cycling vests, trouser guards and maps).
I’ve been working on this website for my new project at UEL – http://www.cyclingcultures.org.uk. It is now live and will be used to document the developing research. Rachel and I are especially interested in gathering Bike Stories from as many cyclists as possible so if you are interested, please add one here.
I have just heard that I’ve had two papers accepted for upcoming conferences:
Making ‘middlework’ public: Mods, mess and homebrew high-tech innovation in suburban Australia
The Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) Annual Conference , 25-29 August University of Tokyo, Japan
It’s the making that matters: Performing (im)possible futures (with Julian McHardy)
European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST) 2-4 September 2010, University of Trento, Italy.
Given EPIC 2010 is squeezed in between these two events (29-1 Sept) in Tokyo, it is going to be a frantically busy time. Still, what a way to get all my conferences done for the year.
Rachel and I (along with Dave Horton and Griet Scheldeman of Lancaster University) are giving a public lecture next week.
New Cycling Research
Tuesday 27 April 2010
University of East London
The public lecture showcases two projects using mixed method and qualitative approaches to cycling: the EPSRC-funded ‘Understanding Walking and Cycling’ (Lancaster University), and the ESRC-funded ‘Cycling Cultures’ (UEL).
Dave Horton (Lancaster University) is undertaking ethnographic research as part of the ‘Understanding Walking and Cycling’ project. The project adopts mixed methods to explore walking and cycling in four English cities; Lancaster, Leeds, Leicester and Worcester. Dave will describe the wider project, before concentrating on the qualitative research, and specifically the ethnographic fieldwork, which he is conducting with the Flemish anthropologist Griet Scheldeman. He’ll give details of the methods that Griet and he has so far been using to produce data which should improve current understandings of cycling and he’ll talk through some of their preliminary findings, with the hope that those present will discuss and help him think about what they might mean!
Rachel and Katrina are working on ‘Cycling Cultures’, which looks at four urban areas with relatively high cycling rates: Cambridge, Hull, Bristol, and Hackney. Rachel and Katrina will discuss the rationale for the project and the findings emerging from pilot and background research. They’ll talk about the methods that they are currently exploring, including mapping applications (ArcView and Google mashups) to represent and analyse qualitative and quantitative data. Rachel and Katrina will also discuss their ongoing experiments in visual methodology including the use of time-lapse photography.
I’ve just finished this poster for UEL Bike Week to be held w/c 26th April (earlier than the national event due to uni term times). Events include film showings, talks, a stall with Dr Bike and giveaways (maps, repair kits and other things). I will also be taking bike portraits in an experiment to get closer to the material relationship between a person and their velocipede – a theme I will be exploring more in the Cycling Cultures research.
The public lecture is on Tuesday 27th April