Author: Christian Voigt

https://www.zsi.at/en/users/156
Dr Christian Voigt has a degree in Business Informatics and a PhD in Information Systems (2008) applied to collaborative online learning. He has extensive experience as project manager, researcher and lecturer in a number of countries (Austria, Germany, Australia and Singapore). Christian joined the Centre for Social Innovation in 2010, where he is leading the ‘Knowledge & Technology’ Unit since 2012. His main interests include the use of technology to enable digital innovations in education, workplaces and life in general (e-participation). Over the past years, he has been actively involved in European research projects related to digital social innovation, educational technology, research e-infrastructures and foresight studies. In 2016 he co-authored a study ''Mapping and Analysis of ICT-enabled Social Innovation initiatives promoting social investment in integrated approaches to the provision of social services" for the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, IPTS. Currently, Christian is working on social innovations promoting e-inclusion, peer2peer production and governance in smart cities. In the field of academia, he teaches at the University of Vienna, reviews for the Journal of Computers & Education and is regularly invited as expert on digital innovations.

Do we need more collaboration for a truly disruptive Maker movement? First insights from the instructables.com community

Authors: Sebastian Mair & Christian Voigt

A central question to the MAKE-IT project is the Maker movements’ near and long-term potential to actually disrupt current production and consumption patterns. Of course, that is a multidimensional question whose complexity can’t be comprehensively reflected in a single sentence. Disruption is better understood as a process rather than an event, if it is to happen at a societal level. The process of disruption starts with becoming aware of a situation which is not satisfying anymore. However, this realisation will depend on persons’ position within the economical ecosystem. Incumbents of lucrative positions within the current system will likely oppose emerging solutions pointing at their shortcomings, often related to a lack of mature and robust implementations of otherwise progressive, forward-looking ideas such as fabricating and assembling products on-site and thereby avoiding shipping and related burdens for the environment. Similarly, there is an argument that making enables people to become more entrepreneurial and therefore create their own jobs, quasi employing themselves.

In both situations, we rely – among other things – on the idea of networks as empowering distribution mechanisms of either product knowledge (e.g. 3D models, materials and related parameters for desktop production) or ‘how-to’ knowledge (e.g. instructions, shared experiences and evaluations of alternative solutions). Hence, one of the ‘signs of disruptions’ is the emergence of large-scale networks empowering makers to share and comment their knowledge. In this posting, we want to more closely study the relationship between network dynamics, as reflected by their increasing membership and related network characteristics such as various centrality measures, the degree of members (often referred to as ‘connectivity’) or the largest sub-networks within a community.

The role of online platforms

By analysing existing online platforms such as thingyverse.com or instructables.com, we aim to contribute to a better understanding of collaboration and connectedness within the Maker community. Eventually, this will be of help when pursuing the realization of the movement’s real potential due to the identification of missing features or incentives that stop platforms from supporting desirable behaviours. Or, alternatively, we might realize that the existing platforms serve a distinctly different purpose and are therefore less suitable to support the larger picture of digital, social innovation as envisioned within large parts of the Maker movement.
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Analytics around concepts and terminologies defining the Maker movement at the Internet Science Conference

In September last year the 3rd International Conference of the Internet Sciences took place in Florence, Italy. I had the chance to present some work my fellow researchers (Calkin Suero Montero and Massimo Menichinelli) did on concepts and terminologies used by the Maker movement. You can find links to the paper, the presentation and the conference website below this posting if the topic interests you!

The work I presented was part of the MAKE-IT project which in turn is part of the CAPS program – one of the most interesting and exiting streams of activities I have seen in Horizon 2020. Technologies such as fabrication tools typical for the Maker movement as well as sharing platforms are researched not only to evaluate their technological capabilities but also to better understand and promote their potential to be used as essential ingredients to solutions which are more mindful of our use of resources.

The Internet Science Conference was a perfect place to show how broadly the term ‘resources’ should be applied. Of course, makers use and re-use materials and potential changes to distribution networks may reduce fuel consumption and CO2 production. However, the Internet Science Conference showed that human attention is a scarce resource as well that needs to be managed wisely as is privacy, a resource often not missed until we are confronted with the consequences (e.g. some aggregated but incomplete data taken from our digital footprint lead to a completely wrong depiction of ourselves). In that sense the conference presented many valuable opportunities for exchanging views on issues we shared in our respective projects (e.g. analyzing community data) but approached them from different perspectives.

All in all 12 interesting CAPS projects shared their views on a wide range of topics such as peer production and distributed governance, user control of personal data, bottom-up networking, free and open source and monitoring the impact of public outreach campaigns.

These projects were present at the conference

The paper has was published in the proceedings of the conference,  you can find a pre-print copy here below (together with my presentation), on the Publications page and on ResearchGate.

Paper

Presentation

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