Author: Massimo Menichinelli

http://fablabbcn.org/
Massimo Menichinelli is a designer and researcher that works with open and collaborative projects and the systems that enable them since 2005. He has lectured about Open Design and Digital Fabrication at Aalto University (Helsinki, Finland),UPSI (Lugano, Switzerland), Fab Academy (Opendot and WeMake, Milan, Italy). He worked also as a Director at Make In Italy Italian Fablab & Makers Foundation CDB where he researched and facilitated Fab Labs and Makers in Italy. He is currently doctoral candidate at Media Lab Helsinki (Aalto University) and project manager in the H2020 project MAKE-IT at Fab Lab Barcelona (IAAC).

How can we understand collaborative behaviours in Maker projects on platforms?

Makers very often work in collaboration with other people, and several times they share their work online as open source (software, hardware, design, …). I’ve been researching how people work collaboratively especially in Open Design projects for several years, and now a bit also in MAKE-IT as well, especially in how these collaborative behaviours could be understood in connections with platforms and especially Collective Awareness Platforms (CAPS).

Makers (and designers and engineers and …) could engage in Open Design in several ways: designing projects, discussing projects, discussing Open Design itself, building platforms that host Open Design projects (like Fablabs.io, the open source platform of the global Fab Lab network)… and so on. These are among the many activities that could be done in the Open Design world and that have an influence on it, and platforms have an increasingly strong impact on these collaborative behaviours. Understanding collaborative processes by makers on such platforms is also an important steps towards understanding platforms in general. For these reasons I wrote a paper for the Design for Next conference (and published in The Design Journal) and a software library that tries to answer to this research question: how could the analysis of social interactions over time on such platforms improve the understanding of design-related collaborative processes?

Understanding this would enable us to advance our understanding of how platforms connects and influence makers and designers in their collaborative work on Open Design, and to provide support to the activity of Maker and Design researchers and of reflective practitioners as well. In this case I focused on analysing projects managed with the Git software and GitHub platform, which are very popular among software developers especially but also among makers. These tool and platform have been investigated with several approaches, papers and softwares, but not with makers, designers and Open Design as the main focus. Furthermore, it’s hard to find reusable software from these researches so that it would be easier to replicate them, especially for reflective practitioners (you would need to have some programming and data science skills, but several makers already have them!). For this reason I developed a software library in the Python language, since it is arguably the most popular language for data science, and therefore anybody can use the library for extracting data about collaborative behaviours on Git and GitHub; the analysis is up to you, with the tools that you prefer. This is therefore not only research, but also innovation as in disseminating research results and tools to make them available to everybody.

I called this library platform_analysis since its aim is to analyse interactions over time in several platforms; for the moment it works with Git and GitHub, but it will be soon extended to other platforms. The library extracts the data from projects and returns a graph of time-stamped interactions that can be then analysed with social network analysis: interactions can be then analysed for the project as a whole or as they happen through time, and we can see therefore how participants collaborated in a project, in which kind of interactions and when. This would enable researchers and practitioners to understand what is happening in such projects and platforms.

This is one of the software applications or libraries we are releasing from MAKE-IT (we will publish more of them soon!), available for discussion and development in a GitHub repository and for the installation as a Python module. This is based on a couple of previous experimentations and tests, now finally fully integrated and structured in a complete software library that is then much more structured, complete and easier to use for all the researchers and reflective practitioners (designers and makers) for analysing their projects!
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Other Horizon 2020 CAPS projects about Makers, and the OpenMaker call for projects

MAKE-IT is not the only Horizon 2020 CAPS project to work with the Maker movement, other projects are addressing it with different perspectives. For example, OpenCare empowers care receivers to design and prototype bottom-up solutions to specific care problems. The European network of makerspaces, Fab Labs, etc. makes these solutions distributed, as every prototype devised can be reproduced, tested and deployed anywhere in the world.

Making Sense aims to explore how open source software, open source hardware, digital maker practices and open design can be effectively used by local communities to fabricate their own sensing tools, make sense of their environments and address pressing environmental problems in air, water, soil and sound pollution (beside MAKE-IT, IAACFab Lab Barcelona also participates in this project).

OpenMaker aims to create a transformational and collaborative ecosystem that fosters collective innovations within the European manufacturing sector by connecting makers and established companies and drives it towards more sustainable business models, production processes, products, and governance systems by bringing together manufacturers and makers. It is especially important to note now the call for the OpenMaker Pilot Support Scheme

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Notes for future research on the impact of the Fab Lab network

For more than 10 years, the global Fab Lab network gathers each year in a conference/symposium/meeting where its members can meet, discuss and share ideas, projects, knowledge and collaboration. This year FAB13, the 13th edition, was held in Santiago de Chile with “Fabricating Society” as its central topic during July 31 – August 6 2017. Unfortunately I could not attend it, so I’m not going to discuss the event, but here you can find pictures and videos of the event and here a complete overview of what happened during FAB13.

What I’d like to talk about here is that these FAB events usually have a small research track where members of the community present scientific papers about their activities and research, and this year its topic followed closely the topic of the main conference: “Fab Labs and Society” (and I was part of the program committee and reviewed some contributions). You can read the complete book of the proceedings here and download it here, and since some papers were only available as abstracts for the conference you can find the final version of all papers here. Beside the papers, the editors of the proceedings kindly invited me and other researchers to provide an article for the proceedings without a peer review evaluation (more like a book chapter), and I wrote a short chapter with notes for future research on the impact of the Fab Lab network. This short contribution aims at proposing a set of research questions for the Fab Lab network, that should be considered more as notes shared among members of the community than as a structured research proposal. Furthermore, this was the opportunity to reflect about how to improve our understanding of the impact of the Fab Lab network and of the Maker movement, a very strategic issue that I think it is still under researched. Luckily, MAKE-IT is one of the first contributions towards exploring this dimension, and in the article I also explains why I think MAKE-IT could be useful for researchers and the Fab Lab network in this direction.

You can read the article in the book of proceedings or its draft here below, under the Publication page, or on Academia.edu here and on ResearchGate here.
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A workshop on digital technology to support social innovation: call for papers

INSCI, the International Conference on Internet Science, is one of the main research events about CAPS, and last year we presented a paper at the INSCI2016 edition in Florence:

The international conference on Internet Science aims at progressing and investigating on topics of high relevance with Internet’s impact on society, governance, and innovation. It focuses on the contribution and role of Internet science on the current and future multidisciplinary understanding of societies transformations, governance shifts and innovation quests. Its main objective is to allow an open and productive dialogue between all the disciplines which study the Internet as a socio-technical system under any technological or humanistic perspectives.

The edition of this year will be the 4th International Conference on Internet Science (22-24 November, 2017) in Thessaloniki, (Greece), and beside submitting papers, we are also organising one of its workshops called DSI – Workshop on Digital Technology to Support Social Innovation. The workshop is organized by SINTEF, Cibervoluntarios, Farapi, Politecnico di Milano, TNO, IAAC | Fab City Research Lab (I’m one of the organizers) and supported by the CAPS projects SOCRATIC, MAKE-IT and OPEN4CITIZENS.

The advent of the Web 2.0 enabled the growth of user-generated content, virtual communities and new forms of collaboration over the internet. Since then, multiple platforms, such as the CAPS platforms , have emerged tapping into collective knowledge for fostering awareness, collaboration and innovation.

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The Maker movement at a larger scale: the Fab City framework and its Maker platforms

Sharitaly 2016 (Milan, Italy)

During the last several months I’ve been invited to events to present the work of Fab Lab Barcelona at IAAC, and especially during three events I had the opportunity to talk also about MAKE-IT but especially about the platforms developed in our labs, which can be considered Maker CAPS (Collective Awareness Platforms), since they focus on networking distributed and collaborative actors and processes. These events are Sharitaly 2016 (Milan, Italy) (15-16 November 2016), Innovation Village (Naples, Italy) (6-7 April 2017) and Energy & Smart Cities (Águeda, Portugal) (29-30 June 2017). Sharitaly is the main collaborative / sharing economy event in Italy; Innovation Village is the main innovation event in Southern Italy, and Águeda is a small Portuguese city with a population of 15,000 in central/northern Portugal, the first Smart City of the country. Here you can check the presentations for the Sharitaly 2016, Innovation Village and Energy & Smart Cities events.

Innovation Village (Naples, Italy). Source: Medaarch

The common element of the three presentations is the evolution of perspective that the Fab Lab movement is having now, which is increasingly considering its processes, outcomes and impact at a larger scale. Growing at a larger scale is (hopefully) a sign of the success of the Fab Lab and Maker movement, but also a sign of maturity in terms of reflecting upon the work done so fare and upon where to go from here. Growing at a larger scale means at least two directions, along which we are working on at Fab Lab Barcelona:

  1. on the physical, local dimension: the Fab City framework
  2. on the digital, global dimension: the Fab City platforms

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Last two deliverables of 2016: D5.2 and D7.2

We just released two more deliverables in December 2016, D5.2 for WP5 and D7.2 for WP7.

WP5 focuses on providing the project, and especially the case study WP3 and WP4, with state-of-the-art overviews of both:

  1. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and related applications developed and/or used by CAPS.
  2. Maker technology developed and/or used by Makers. This will include the relationships and mutual complementary of the two.

Furthermore, it focuses on developing forward scenarios and a watching brief of these two technology areas and how they are used by CAPS and Maker communities both respectively and in combination. These scenarios will by directly deployed in the work of WP3 and WP4, as well as provide inputs into WP2 and WP6.

WP7 acts as the interface between all the other WPs and the four types of stakeholders according to the quadruple helix framework (civic actors – research and facilitation actors – policy actors – economic actors), and in collaboration also with WP4 (regarding stakeholders who will be participating in the Action Research processes of MAKE-IT) and WP6 (which will directly address and engage with research stakeholders). The activities of WP7 will aim at communicating the progress and results of the project towards the four different target groups, working along three directions:

  1. Dissemination measures, aimed at interconnecting MAKE-IT results with other relevant insights from the scientific community.
  2. Exploitation measures, aimed at stakeholder acceptance, implementation and knowledge transfer of MAKE-IT results in practice. As MAKE-IT not only observes but also innovates (see WP4 and WP5), our exploitation measures also ensure that we will valorise our innovation.
  3. Communication measures, aimed at reaching a wider audience according to the quadruple helix framework through various offline and online channels, to highlight the key MAKE-IT messages on a European-wide scale and to make them as accessible as possible. We aim at understanding the impact on all four groups, the WP6 and WP7 will strive to integrate all four actor groups of the quadruple helix model in their dissemination activities (WP7) and analysis of impact (WP6).

You can read more about in the deliverables here below and on the MAKE-IT process page.

D5.2 Report on forward scenarios of technology
developments and technology use

D7.2 Dissemination, exploitation and
communication report

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MAKE-IT talk at Maker Faire Rome 2016

Several members of the MAKE-IT consortium recently participated at Maker Faire Rome 2016, the largest Maker Faire in Europe since 2013 (you can check the 2015 edition or see videos from the 2013, 2014 and 2015 editions). We had several meetings and activities during Maker Faire Rome 2016, and we will publish more blog posts and contents in the next weeks. For example, last week we already had a blog post by David Langley with his first impressions regarding the Maker Faire Rome 2016.

In this blog post, we publish the slides and video from a talk that we gave in order to present and discuss the MAKE-IT with makers and other visitors: MAKE-IT: a project for understanding and experimenting online platforms for the governance of Maker communities.

This talk, shared by several partners of the MAKE-IT project (and not just me, I only presented MAKE-IT in the first part), presented the project, its plan, the planned outcomes and processes and discussed it with the audience. Among the participants in the discussion we had Sherry Lassiter from the Fab Foundation, and Fiorenza Lipparini from PlusValue.

Here you can access the presentation file:

And here’s a recording of the whole discussion:

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Welcome to the MAKE-IT website

MAKE-IT: website v0.1
MAKE-IT: website v0.1.

The Maker movement is connecting citizens and professionals with digital manufacturing and communication technologies like 3D printers, laser cutters and online community platforms. As a result, virtual bits can be shared globally and turned into physical objects or atoms locally.

How can Maker communities achieve sustainability and organize themselves? What do Maker participants do, and how do they behave? What value do they create, and how does this benefit society? How can we help their governance, their impact and sustainability?

MAKE-IT is a Horizon 2020 European research project focused on how the role of Collective Awareness Platforms (CAPS) enables the growth and governance of the Maker movement, particularly in relation to Information Technology, using and creating social innovations and achieving sustainability.

The MAKE-IT project started in January 2016 and will last until December 2017; its process is documented on the Process page and the partners involved in it are described in the Consortium page. A first, simple, one-page website was launched in March 2016 (v0.1), and a new version has been just launched now (v0.2): this website will be improved in the following months, so please register to our newsletter in order to learn when new content or features will be available online. For example:

MAKE-IT website v0.2
MAKE-IT: website v0.2.

Since the website will be updated regularly, you will see this note on several pages, which will be removed once their content has been finalized:

Note The MAKE-IT project started in January 2016 and is currently active; this website will be improved in the following months, please register to our newsletter in order to learn when new content or features will be available online.

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