What is the concrete technology

Project description

"The future is open source everything." With this quote the founder of the Linux project, Linus Torvalds, anticipated developments in recent years. Open source practices, which originally came from software development, are diffusing at a horrific rate, along with their normative content, into many areas of society; Wikipedia, Open Access or Open Design are based on this.

In my doctoral project I look at the sphere of open design in which open source practices are experimented with in order to enforce the open and cooperative design and use of material objects. With the transformation of open source practices in the inclusion of physical things, new forms of knowledge and objects emerge in open design, v. a. in contrast to dominant industrial regimes of knowledge and technology.

Accordingly, I understand the practices of open design as a “re-design” (Latour) of the relationships between people, knowledge and objects. This redesign includes not only artifacts (very prominent such as 3D printers), but also new spaces of knowledge (such as fab labs or hackerspaces) and demands on subjects (“maker” instead of being a consumer). In the research project, I locate open design as part of a broader social project of open source, which connects future visions and goals with its own practices. That the future could be “open source everything” or open source of many material artifacts is a vision in many practices of open design. I understand this “not yet” as part of the social construction of the sphere and therefore analyze open design as a current form of “concrete utopia” (Bloch).

Part of Open Design and its visions for the future is the potential globality of practices made possible not only, but especially by the Internet. In their practices, some open design communities networked across national and cultural borders. In doing so, they produce knowledge conveyed via objects that is highly mobile. Accordingly, my empirical access to open design is shaped by tracking the mobility and circulation of objects and visions of the future. The aim is to highlight the extent to which objects and visions are constitutive for the sphere of open design. Together with them, forms of technology design and use emerge in Open Design, which are in stark contrast to the dominant forms of technology development.

The aim of the work is to understand which goals and visions are advanced in open design and how these are related to a broader social project of open source. The aim is to reconstruct which new forms of knowledge and objects are produced by Open Design. The emergence of open design does not mean that the future will be "open source everything", but new possibilities are emerging that help make it possible.