Some recent articles on participation in science

The center for the advancement of informal science education has a report on three cases of participatory science from 2009, which I only just discovered.

A workshop on “Volunteered Geographic Information” took place in april of last year. UCL Professor Muki Haklay wrote three posts that are relevant. He is also apparently director of something called “the UCL Extreme Citizen Science group” (1 | 2 | 3).

Disaster Relief 2.0, publisher march of last year. When will the whole 2.0 thing stop?

Some cases to pursue…

Citizen Science
Public laboratory
Galaxy Zoo

Decision Making/Recommendation
all our ideas
google moderator

Consumer production/Prosumption?
open source footware at john fluevog

(open) Hardware Hacking
safecast (Also citizen science)
freedom box
freedom fone

Artwork repository / Artistic Communities

The Internet Archive
Project Gutenberg

Nettime Mailing List

The Station (YouTube)
PCF (Miro)

Fan Culture/Participatory Culture cases?
Original Hip Hop Lyrics Archive
Internet Movie Database

Defunct Projects and/or Projects which failed (in fostering public participation)
GNU Hurd
Corel Linux (and hundreds of other linux distros)
Digital Tipping Point
Symbiam OS
Open Solaris



Oracle and its Social Media Participation Policy

Sometimes when you are searching for something, you find what you were looking for but it still surprises you. Such as Oracle’s Social Media Participation Policy.

What makes this particularly diagnostic of participation is that it is an internal policy (though posted publicly!) for a classical bureaucratic entity which attempts to govern participation in supposedly non-bureacratic non-organizations (social media) and therefore has to work out the contradictions of being a non-employee of (perhaps many) organized publics.

So for instance, the policy covers basically any mention of Oracle by an employee in any media either at work or at home. Oracle asserts its right to control its employees: Oracle employees are still expected to be loyal members of the “team”–and especially brand representatives of the organization. (Oracle as enlightened Despot?)

Even if your social media activities take place completely outside of work, as your personal activities should, what you say can have an influence on your ability to conduct your job responsibilities, your teammates’ abilities to do their jobs, and Oracle’s business interests.

Most of it is reasonable: don’t publish Oracle’s confidential information. Some of it is weird: “you may not publish (nor should you possess) our competitors’ proprietary or confidential information.” Huh?
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Grilling Peer Production with Weber

Kreiss, D., M. Finn, and F. Turner. 2010. “The Limits of Peer Production: Some Reminders from Max Weber for the Network Society.New Media & Society 13:243-259. (Accessed December 14, 2010).

A new article in New Media and Society proposes that we go back to our Weber for a fresh wake-up call concerning the heady promises of peer production. It’s a good article for one good reason: it characterizes some of the basic features of what they call the “consensus view” of peer production. The consensus view includes claims that 1) peer production is psychologically gratifying labor (which is good), 2) it leads to egalitarianism and efficiency 3) it realizes ethical relationships between collaborators (?), 4) that peer production is a mode equally suited to all domains, and 5) that it is nonmarket and nonproprietary. Aside from the cryptic one about ethical relationships, these are all fair characterizations of a “consensus” view… tif you believe such a consensus exists, rather than a cacophony of scholars and pundits with their own reasons: a few first movers (Lessig, Benkler) that have since moved on to their next project, a few loudmouths (Shirky, Weinberger) who don’t really care at all about scholarship but love being in the limelight (Clay Shirky writing for Foreign Affairs!) and a few others (Jenkins and everyone in cultural studies) who are just a little too giddy with excitement about fan culture.
Continue reading “Grilling Peer Production with Weber”

Lay Science: The Puppet Musical

Machine Project is running a puppet show about Lay Science and Art

Lay Science: a project by Eric Lindley and Katie Shook, in residence at Machine Project

January 23rd – February 26th, 2011

more info here.

What if art could have a measurable function in the world? What if people outside the scope of academia had the resources to practice sound, scientific research? Lay Science, a collaboration between Eric Lindley and Katie Shook, is an exploration into the literal use-value of art, and a critique of institutionalized scientific research.

It is also a short puppet musical.

Lay Science integrates common, contemporary scientific techniques with experimental art-making to combine the two fields into a rich, participatory exploration into how the integration of human activities like art and science can open up dialogue and stimulate progress in each field. Participants — anyone who would like to visit Machine Project from late January through late February, 2011 — are invited to view a short, private puppet show and take a survey, so that Katie and Eric can gather data for scientific analysis.

The show itself is a short, private puppet performances by Katie and Eric, which will be done for one audience member at a time. The viewer will be immersed in a complete, surreal musical and visual environment, in a small enclosure within the gallery, as Katie and Eric make a unique performance for that person alone, about the inhabitants of a small country house that has been washed out to sea.

In addition to the experiment, guest speakers on related scientific fields and artwork will be invited for talks. Also, stay tuned for information on the final presentation of data and conclusions at the end of February.

Each show is designed for one, and just one, audience member at a time. Please reserve your spot in advance for this short puppet play to guarantee a spot by following the RSVP links below.

Walk-in participants are highly encouraged as well, if you happen to be in the area on weekday evenings or during the weekend. We suggest that if you want to just drop by, you call ahead to the gallery a little bit ahead of time, at 213.483.8761, just to check we’re in.

Participatory Engineering

Recently, I found a book called “Participatory democracy and Political Participation: Can participatory engineering bring citizens back in?” by Thomas Zittel, Dieter Fuchs (2007). The notion of “participatory engineering” should probably sound eerie, propagandistic and sinister, but apparently it doesn’t to these guys. In fact, it’s part of what seems to be an explosion of reform proposals for participatory democracy. Two websites have collections of such “engineering” ideas. One is a mysterious, seemingly british thing called “People and Participation” and the other is Participedia. Both have nice lists of a bewildering array of methods and cases (Participedia: methods, cases).

What’s interesting about these examples for us, I think, is the way they hew closely to a common-sense definition of what government is (and ergo, what e-government is). It relates to the workings of governments obviously. It’s about participatory budgeting, it’s about planning, it’s about public welfare… etc. The obviousness of this only seems striking in contrast to the kinds of cases we are concerned with as Birds of the Internet… e.g. Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc. where it’s just as much about participation and people, and arguably more powerful than many local governments, but also quite obviously not government. So perhaps this is an interesting data-point about the slippage in the use of terms like “democratization” and “participatory democracy”– that they are easily applied to objects that are not obviously governments (even if governance is central to them) without it seeming contradictory.

Pushed further, one might then ask what happens to the common sense notion of what a government is the more tools (blogs, wikis, social networks, etc) are applied to solving problems of participation in those seemingly obvious areas.

The History of Social Networking

Hey, I think the Tim Wu virus is spreading. Stupid uses of history are popping up all over in TechCrunch… this time, a three part “history” of social networking (Past, Present, Future) that starts off “kids these days…I was into social networking waaaay before it was cool…” but ends up in the standard silicon valley eternal future.