It’s about “making” – Civic hackathons as technoscientific public communication/engagement mode

It’s about “making” – Civic hackathons as technoscientific public communication/engagement mode

Author: Carolin Thiem, Germany

In the last decade, civic hackathons transformed into public events that innovated science policy and science communication. The term “hacking” is mostly related to a computer crime, but this is not what it means in terms of civic hackathons. Here “hacking” is related to the distortion of something’s original purpose to solve a problem. At a hackathon event, multiple people from various backgrounds work on one challenge. Via a multiple methods approach I examined different civic hackathons dealing with solutions for the oceans and for cities. I analysed ethnografic and webnograhic data from 6 different hackathons and conducted 8 different interviews (organizers and participants). The initially addressed public for these hackathons was imagined to consist of certified scientific experts, programmers and designers – hoverver inexperienced people with a desire to improve the actual situation (enthusiasts) also participated.

I analyzed the different modes of technoscientific communication and engagement and compare them with different existing and classical modes of science communication and engagement. Therefore I will focus first on how lightning talks transform from scientific lectures into input for a creative hacking processes. Second, I will show that through the making of prototypes, citizens can gain different technological knowledge while using diverse (new) digital technologies or data sets. Further, they develop scientific knowledge regarding the topic (city/ocean) during the prototyping process. While making and tinkering citizens arrange technologies in a new manner, they can also contribute to the production of technoscientific knowledge. Last I will display how the special time frame of two days and the tension between regulation and experimentation keeps the participation at the civic hackathon alive.

In my conclusion I will frame civic hackathons as instruments for public engagement in science – especially for the communication and engagement in technoscience.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Insight talk
Theme: Transformation