Can Platform Cooperativism help the Maker Movement to become more sustainable? MAKE-IT on the Open 2017: Platform Cooperatives conference in London

What if so-called sharing economy and gig work platforms like Uber and AirBnB, or even social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter were owned by their employees and users who maintain the platform, deliver the services and create the content that leads to the astounding valuations of the platform economy? The result would be the orientation of emerging technologies toward community-wealth and participatory, democratic control – a vision which the cooperative movement pursues already for centuries, and which is now being picked up in its 21st century version by the Platform Cooperativism movement.

From 16th to 17th of February 2017, scientists, politicians, programmers, activists and representatives from business and civil society met in the halls of Goldsmiths, University of London, to bring together developers of the digital world with practitioners of cooperative business models. The container for this get-together was the two-day conference on the collaborative economy Open 2017: Platform Cooperatives.

I had the opportunity to discuss MAKE-IT with the participants of the conference with the particular focus on sustainability scenarios for the Maker movement. To connect the principles of open source design – on which the Maker movement is built upon – with platform cooperatives – which can be understood as a business form of Collective Awareness Platforms – appears to be a promising approach for a sustainable development of the Maker movement. Platform cooperatives can ease the Maker movement’s dilemma to aspire to the free sharing of open source designs on the one hand, while at the same time wanting to meet financial needs through Maker activities. The development of a platform cooperative where makers can offer their products for sale and free sharing depending on the use of their products could, for example, be modeled on the platform cooperative Stocksy United, which offers royalty-free stock photography and videos. This way, Makers would have the option to offer the same product with different licenses (i.e. open source and commercial licenses) to the respective audiences while parts of their revenues are automatically reinvested into the Maker movement through the platform cooperative.

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Similarities, differences and interactions between the Hacker scene and the Maker Movement. Discussion on the 33rd Chaos Communication Congress (33C3)

From 27 to 30 December 2016, about 10.000 hackers, scientists, activists and interested citizens met for the 33rd Chaos Communication Congress (33C3) in the sold-out CCH trade fair in Hamburg. I was given the chance to present MAKE-IT with some first findings from our empirical case studies there to lead into a discussion about similarities, differences, and interactions between the Hacker scene and the Maker movement.

Figure 2: Decentralised congress organisation through crowd participation

After providing an initial input on selected findings from MAKE-IT’s ten case studies that capture the diversity of the Maker movement, and an introduction to MAKE-IT’s three analytical pillars organisation and governance, peer and collaborative behaviour, and value creation and impact, I moderated a discussion with about 20 participants who were mostly members and/or researchers of hacker-/makerspaces themselves. The discussion elucidated how the Maker movement has its roots in the hacker scene and how the first German makerspaces were founded as secessions from established hackerspaces. Both movements share tools and machinery as well as the mentality to open, reconstruct and modify things to understand them and make them accessible in the spirit you don’t own it if you can’t open it. Decentralization, sharing, social inclusion and practicing a hands-on imperative are core topics of both sub-cultures which became apparent throughout all aspects of the congress, including its organizational infrastructure. All tasks of the congress, from the recording and translation of lectures to ticket inspections and medical support were impressively executed by self-organised volunteer networks.

Figure 3: Hacker aesthetics at 33C3

It emerged from the discussion that the Maker movement consciously tries to set itself apart from the hacker scene through language and public imagery in order to resist the negative stigmata that surround Hackers in the media discourse and to be more accessible to the wider public. The Maker movement has, therefore, rebranded itself by giving itself a new name, adopted a cleaner aesthetics and established its own media outlets. While hacker ethics strongly inform the current maker ethos, makers tend to be much more pragmatic when it comes to acquiring external funding and collaborating with established institutions. This enables Maker initiatives to enter into cooperation with public institutions like schools and libraries and to carry the culture of hacking items and production processes into wider society. For a further insight on the topic, check the Analytical Report below.

 

Figure 4: Maker aesthetics at Happylab Vienna

 

TUDO Analytical Report: 33C3 2016

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When online meets offline: Digital Social Innovation Fair 2017

It seems to me that fairs are an omnipresent component of the MAKE-IT project. Obviously, Maker Faires are one of the most important opportunities for makers worldwide to showcase their project to a wide community and meet fellow makers and potential investors and consumers in an offline environment. Yet, MAKE-IT through its transdisciplinary approach is not only part of the Maker movement, but, as a CAPS project, MAKE-IT has one foot in the world of social innovation as well. Just like Makers, social innovators display their ideas and meet other like-minded individuals at fairs.

One of these fairs is the Digital Social Innovation Fair, which took place on the 1st and 2nd of February in the pre-digital historic buildings of the Protomoteca Hall on Campidoglio in Rome. The MAKE-IT consortium was well represented with Tomas Diez’s keynote giving a comprehensive overview of the Maker movement’s vast spread including the rise of fab cities and the opportunities of the smart citizen project and Jeremy Millard’s keynote which focused on how acknowledging nature as a fifth additional actor to the quadruple helix model can inform the design of social organisations and substantially alter visions of future societies.

The keynotes given on both days of the fair covered a vast array of topics reaching from practical issues of how e.g. open data management can become a tool for municipal public administration to ethical considerations touching upon the prevailing conflict of online power being in the hands of big corporations instead of citizens. In the evening, Janosch Sbeih and I took part in a side event which led us to FabLab Rome located on the outskirts of the city. We explored the FabLab’s two neighbouring facilities of which one was decorated in neat colours to spur creativity, while the other resembled a garage stuffed with drilling and printing machinery. Leonardo Zaccone who founded the FabLab Rome focusses on introducing kids at an early age to the possibilities of digital fabrication. To enhance the outreach of his Fablabs he developed specialized courses for teachers who can then include digital fabrication into their curriculum.

Side event: Leonardo Zaccone presenting his FabLab at Meet the Roman Makers (Photo by Marthe Zirngiebl)

 

On day 2 of the Digital Social Innovation Fair 2017 Janosch Sbeih presented MAKE-IT’s preliminary results during a workshop called Collaborative Making, Art and Creativity. Since many of the other presenters and people attending our workshop are quite active in the Maker movement, we used our time slot to discuss the question of what the Maker movement needs to sustainably tackle societal challenges such as environmental degradation, social inclusion, and employment.

The audience agreed that a lot of makers pursue projects that have the potential to tackle these challenges sustainably. While they do not lack creativity, ideas and a sense of societal responsibility, they by and large lack public recognition. This, in turn, makes it more difficult for initiatives to receive funding or guide policy in a favorable direction. So one consequent action to be pursued by the Maker movement would be to voice their values and showcase their activities to a wider public. Hence, our presentation, as well as the other ideas and projects exhibited at the Digital Social Innovation Fair 2017, provide valuable insights for MAKE-IT’s sustainability scenarios developed as part of Work Package 6. To collect further input, the results of the discussion are presented here and will remain open for further comments by the online community. Furthermore,  Janosch Sbeih wrote an analytical report of the DSI Fair 2017 you can check below.

 

TUDO Analytical Report: DSI Fair 2017

 

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MAKE-IT Partners’ interviews

What can we expect for MAKE-IT? Who is working on it? To answer these questions, I interviewed my partners during the MAKE-IT Plenary Workshop in Vienna, December 2016. I talked with the partners about their experience in the Maker movement and their expectations of the project.

Get to know them:

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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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MAKE-IT at the CAPS Community Meeting and Workshop in Berlin

On 18th May 2016, I presented MAKE-IT at the CAPS Community Meeting and Workshop in Berlin. DG Connect did not only invite all 36 CAPS projects funded in the first two calls, but also external participants interested in their developments. The acronym CAPS stands for Collective Awareness Platforms for Sustainability and Social Innovation.

The CAPS initiative attempts to foster the use of network technologies, thereby building collective intelligence and collective action within five thematic areas. MAKE-IT aims at understanding the role of CAPS in enabling the growth and governance of the Maker Movement, particularly in relation to using and creating social innovations and achieving sustainability. While MAKE-IT is one of the four projects funded within the cluster Collaborative Making, projects of other areas employ means of digital fabrication, as well. In that regard, the community meeting showed that the insights into the working of makerspaces will be of great value for and provide potential synergies with other CAPS projects like Hackair or CAPTOR, which with the help of special DIY building kits encourage citizens to measure the level of air or ocean pollution.

 

Besides presenting MAKE-IT and listening to the presentations of first and second round CAPS projects using socially innovative means to contribute to a more sustainable, more cooperative future, I participated in a workshop which centred on the role and ambition of impact measurement. Of central interest was the tool IA4SI, Impact Assessment for Social Innovation, a first generation CAPS project which developed a self-assessment tool. This tool should assist CAPS and other projects with a focus on digital social innovation in assessing and monitoring their socio-economic, environmental, and political impacts. As such, it serves as an important reference framework for the Monitoring and Assessment Framework developed as part of MAKE-IT’s Conceptual and Methodological Framework.

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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 Vienna Workshop Review

On 1 st of December 2016, MAKE-IT organised a workshop with the title The Maker Movement comes in many shapes and sizes: Insights into Europe’s Maker Scene in collaboration with the University of Applied Arts Vienna.

The workshop was open to all interested people who were somehow familiar with making, either because they had heard about it or because they themselves had more or less experience in making.

Researchers from the MAKE-IT project together with students, educators and practitioners from the University of Applied Arts as well as managers from maker spaces around Europe discussed together about the European’s Maker scene.

After a short introduction to the workshop by the Centre for Social Innovation, which was responsible for the organisation of the workshop, Dr. Alexander Damianisch, director of the Department Support Art and Research at the University of Applied Arts, as a host of the workshop, spoke the welcoming words followed by the very interesting keynote by Prof. Christoph Kaltenbrunner. In his presentation, he brought in international insights into the Maker scene and underlined the importance of bringing making into educational curricula for equipping future generations with relevant digital (and) making skills.

The keynote was followed by ten three-minute pitches. Representatives of European maker spaces (who were either MAKE-IT partners or were being explored in the framework of our case study analysis) brought an object of their maker initiatives that somehow stood for their making and gave a short pitch along the object with the most important facts. After each pitch, the audience had some minutes to ask questions and discuss.

In the interactive part, the workshop was dedicated to discussing preliminary findings regarding key research areas in respect to the organisation of maker spaces, the collaboration of makers, and value creation and impact of making. The discussion was very lively and fruitful; preliminary findings were complemented and validated.

The Maker Movement comes in many shapes and sizes: Insights into Europe’s Maker Scene

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MAKE-IT presentation at the 8th European Innovation Summit (European Parliament)

14-16 November 2016 was the 8th European Innovation Summit, held at the European Parliament. The MAKE-IT project was involved in the session on ‘The effect of Digitisation on Society’. I joined a panel including MEP Michal Boni: I discussed the Maker movement and how grassroots initiatives can offer a viable alternative to the corporate economic model for our digital society, based on social innovation and the circular economy. Here is my presentation:

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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.

MAKE-IT panel at Maker Faire Rome 2016

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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