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Algorithmic Culture & Maker Culture; Breaches and Bridges in the Platform Economy

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During last year’s different platforms have emerged on the Internet and have become common in our everyday living. These new digital companies have succeed in positioning themselves as cultural intermediaries in a growing trend towards the digitization of society favoured by the irruption of different technologies, new forms of value-creating human activities and the decentralization effect that Internet culture helps to create.
In this sense, the growing importance of digital ecosystems in human processes & decisions has nurtured an algorithmic culture that symbolizes our current declining of autonomy in the social sphere. This disruption in the cultural landscape has been supported by the introduction of different “black-boxes” that impede to ascertain what the inner workings of these new socio-technological brokers are.
On the contrary, we can observe how different grassroots initiatives that promote technological appropriation and digital empowerment like the Maker Movement are also becoming globally recognized and institutionally supported. These movements rely on Free Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) and Hardware for opening black-boxes and promoting critical thinking about technology in citizenship.
In this contribution we would like to explore the several convergences and divergences that are present in these two different cultures to shed some light in the complicated new techno-realities that have risen. Finally, we conclude with a set of several key guidelines that can help to policy-makers to promote new updated legislations.

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Algorithmic Culture & Maker Culture; Breaches and Bridges in the Platform Economy

  1. 1. Algorithmic Culture & Maker Culture; Breaches & Bridges in the Platform Economy 27/9/2017 Dr. Raúl Tabarés #JIIPSUMMERSCHOOL The Hague
  2. 2. A moment of history to reflect upon the relationship between technology & humankind…
  3. 3. 3 ▌
  4. 4. …a moment of history to reflect upon the relationship of politics & technology in society.
  5. 5. A moment to think about a digital society.
  6. 6. 11
  7. 7. 14 ▌
  8. 8. 15 ▌
  9. 9. 16 ▌
  10. 10. 17 ▌
  11. 11. 19 ▌
  12. 12. The rising of different platforms on the Internet has disrupted many industries during the last decades. These new companies have succeed in positioning themselves as cultural intermediaries in a growing trend towards the digitization of services and human processes. The introduction of different technologies that have helped to create new forms of value for human activities has also paved the way for the popularization of different black-boxes that impede to ascertain what are the inner workings of these new socio-technological mediators. At the same time and thanks to the emerging Internet Culture, different grassroots initiatives have risen during the last decades like the “Maker Movement” and are starting to be supported by different institutions. These philosophies are reliant on Open Source Software and Open Hardware in order to promote technological appropriation and critical thinking about technology in citizenship. These two trends that can be framed as “Algorithmic Culture” and “Maker Culture” presents different convergences and divergences that can help policy-makers to navigate in the already abrupt waters of the post-industrial society 21 ▌ Introduction
  13. 13. Index Introduction Maker Culture Platform economy and its discontents Breaches & Bridges 22 ▌ Algorithmic Culture Discussion
  14. 14. Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, Uber or AirBnB are some of the companies that have turned out to be usual in our everyday living for connecting with friends, watching movies, renting a flat during our holidays or just taking a ride. Platform economy is defined as a “term that encompasses a growing number of digitally enabled activities in business, politics, and social interaction” (Kenney & Zysman, 2016). This paradigm shift in business has been driven by the growing digitalization of sociality (Van Dijck, 2013) and the decentralization effect that Internet culture provokes on society (Castells, 1997) favoring this transition to digital services created by nascent start up´s. The term “platform” has been promoted by these new companies under the influence of “Californian Ideology” (Barbrook & Cameron, 1996) to promote a neutral and egalitarian ecosystem where the users of these services can be supported and treated in an equal way. These digital ecosystems are trying to position themselves as cultural intermediaries while they look for sustainable business models (Gillespie, 2010) and they are totally depend on the contribution of human beings and the digitization of value-creating human activities (Kenney & Zysman, 2016). 23 ▌ Platform Economy & its discontents
  15. 15. The emergence of Web 2.0 (O´Reilly, 2005) and Social Media (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010) paradigms have fuelled the growing datasets (Helmond, 2015) that are available in different UGC platforms (Van Dijck, 2009) . This has made possible “digital labor” (Scholz, 2012) or “free labor” (Terranova, 2000) that is characterized by the exploitation of commons by capital (platform owners) on the Internet (Fuchs, 2010; Fuster-Morell, 2010; Tufekci, 2010). The evolution of these platforms have focused in the need of developing Big Data tools (Boellstorff & Maurer, 2015) that have dramatically decreased the costs of collection and storage of data but also to develop much more advanced processing techniques for large datasets (Boyd & Crawford, 2011; Gray, 2014). The rising of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the next frontier in this evolution and it has a paramount importance in order to create new services and applications that can be monetized like self-driving cars (Stilgoe, 2017), banking (Pasquale, 2015) and conversational interfaces (Geller, 2012). 24 ▌ Platform Economy & its discontents
  16. 16. “If the industrial revolution was organized around the factory, today´s changes are organized around these digital platforms, loosely defined. Indeed, we are in the midst of a reorganization of our economy in which the platform owners are seemingly developing power that may be even more formidable than was that of the factory owners in the early industrial revolution” (Kenney & Zysman, 2016).
  17. 17. – Dominant position in Social Media & Digital Advertising – Dominant position in Digital Devices & App Ecosystem – Dominant position in Social Search & Digital Advertising – Dominant position in e-Commerce & Cloud Services – Dominant position in Corporate & Home Systems 26 ▌ The Big Five
  18. 18. – Emerging dominant positions in Accommodation Services (especially in SME´s) – Emerging dominant position in Tourism Information Services (especially in SME´s) – Emerging dominant position in Urban Transportation – Emerging dominant position in Blogging/Opinion Contents – Emerging dominant positions in Media Streaming 27 ▌ And the others…
  19. 19. 28 ▌
  20. 20. Winner takes it all
  21. 21. The evolution of platforms towards the processing of high quantities of data has paved the way for the consolidation of what it has been framed as an “algorithmic culture” (Striphas, 2015) contributing to create new cultural identities that are enclosed in the digital and private realm (Hallinan & Striphas, 2014). The great embodiment of algorithms in platforms (code, systems, devices, etc.) makes so difficult to delimitate its components into a particular service and several high-skills for understanding their inner workings (Dourish, 2016). Moreover, the opacity that accompanies this objects (i.e. patents) and the doubts about how these companies gather, store and manage data (not open to public scrutiny) contribute to create formidable black-boxes (Pasquale, 2015) that denies the possibility to look into the fundamentals behind these omnipresent technological systems. Data treatment is nothing new regarding competitive advantages in the business domain, especially in media industries where test audiences, ratings and other techniques have been deployed by different companies in the past (Hallinan & Striphas, 2014). Nevertheless, recent advances in computing have created new unthinkable scales. Data driven industries reward economies of scale and centralized control of infrastructure in order to gather, store, classify, manage and reuse the “new oil”. 33 ▌ Algorithmic Culture
  22. 22. Algorithmic Culture is defined as “the use of computational processes to sort, classify, and hierarchize people, places, objects, and also the habits of thought, conduct, and expression that arise in relationship to those processes” (Striphas, 2012).
  23. 23. 36 ▌
  24. 24. The origins of “Maker Movement” (Dougherty, 2012) can be traced back to the ´20s (pirate radio), DIY philosophy, Cyberculture and Hacker Culture. It has been enabled by an expiration of patents and new open source technologies in the digital fabrication domain (Birtchnell & Urry, 2013) that have favored the rising of open-design & low-cost innovations in manufacturing. In addition, the growing presence of makerspaces, Fab Labs, Media Labs and other spaces (Niaros et al, 2017) where social production is fostered has promoted a new wave of social and collective innovation based on open source technologies. That´s why this phenomenon has attracted a growing interest recently from different stakeholders. A recent trend towards the institutionalization of these spaces have been observed in China (XinCheJian, Mass Innovation) , USA (Maker Cities, National Week of Making) and Europe (EC, national and regional authorities) by different administrations and private companies. There are important nodes like Shenzhen where different companies have adopted open source BBPP in order to gain competitiveness (informal networks for sharing designs, material lists, etc.) (Lindtner, 2015). Maker Culture has a great potential to reconnect society with manufacturing and promote a critical technolocial culture but at the same time has to overcome several challenges (gender, inclusion) and myths (techno-utopianism, techno-solutionism) 38 ▌ Maker Culture
  25. 25. “This contemporary maker culture is concerned not only with open Internet technology and digital things, but also with physical things such as hardware designs, sensors, and networking devices that bridge the digital and physical worlds. While the earlier movement was concerned with the workings of software code and the workings of the Internet, this contemporary maker movement is concerned with hardware designs and the workings of the Internet of Things.” (Lindtner, 2014)
  26. 26. 43 ▌ http://openmaker.eu/ http://odmplatform.eu/ Call for submissions open until 10/18!!!
  27. 27. “Freemium” Services - Centralization - Proprietary Technologies - Proprietary Knowledge - Opacity - Growth - On-Line engagement - 44 ▌ Breaches Community Services Decentralization Free Technologies Free Knowledge Transparency Sustainability On-Line & Off-Line Engagement
  28. 28. - Community Oriented (use of Social Media channels for promotion, use of crowdbased platforms for fundraising, innovation, etc.) - Open structures & Open platforms - Contradictions & Tensions - Beta approach - Co-creation of value - Techno-optimism & Techno-solutionism - Lack of diversity in their representatives/managers - male elites? 45 ▌ Bridges
  29. 29. - “Platform technologies as legislations/norms of life” - Lack of social institutions for steering R&D process in the Platform Economy (AI risks, algorithm biases, privacy, etc.) - Outdated regulations for disruptions provoked by platforms (especially in urban areas) - Insufficient financial regulation instruments - Growing need for digital skills/literacy/empowerment in citizenship - Political support for creating new jobs (specially for new low- skilled job sectors) - Reductions in the working week 46 ▌ Discussion
  30. 30. Boyd, D., & Crawford, K. (2011). Six Provocations for Big Data. In A Decade in Internet Time: Symposium on the Dynamics of Internet and Society (pp. 1–17). http://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1926431 Dijck, J. Van. (2013). The Culture of Connectivity: A Critical History of Social Media. New York: Oxford University Press. Dougherty, D. (2012). The Maker Movement. Innovations: Technology, Governance, Globalization, 7(3), 11–14. Human-Computer Interaction: Extending Boundaries (pp. 295–304). ACM. Dourish, P. (2016). Algorithms and their Others: Algorithmic Culture in Context. Big Data & Society, (December), 1–11. http://doi.org/10.1177/2053951716665128 Gillespie, T. (2010). The Politics of Platforms. New Media & Society, 12(3), 347–364. http://doi.org/10.1002/9781118321607.ch28 Hallinan, B., & Striphas, T. (2014). Recommended for you: The Netflix Prize and the production of algorithmic culture. New Media & Society, 1461444814538646-. http://doi.org/10.1177/1461444814538646 Helmond, A. (2015). The Platformization of the Web: Making Web Data Platform Ready. Social Media + Society. Volume 1 (2). DOI: 10.1177/2056305115603080 Kenney, M., & Zysman, J. (2016). The Rise of the Platform Economy. Issues in Science and Technology, 32(3), 61. Lindtner, S., (2014). Hackerspaces and the Internet of Things in China: How makers are reinventing industrial production, innovation, and the self. China Information. 28: 145. Niaros, V., Kostakis, V., & Drechsler, W. (2017). Making (in) the Smart City: The Emergence of Makerspaces. Telematics and Informatics. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.tele.2017.05.004 Pasquale, F. (2015). The black box society: The secret algorithms that control money and information. London: Harvard University Press. Tabarés-Gutiérrez, R. (2016). Approaching maker´s phenomenon. Interaction Design and Architecture(s), (30), 19–29. Tabarés-Gutiérrez, R. (2017) Conversational Interfaces; Speaking with Irresponsible Black-Boxes. 4S 2017 Conference. Boston. Winner, L. (1980). Do Artifacts Have Politics ? Daedalus, 109(1), 121–136. Retrieved from https://blog.itu.dk/I-II- E2013/files/2013/11/winner-l-do-artifacts-have-politics.pdf 47 ▌ Bibliography
  31. 31. Dr. Rául Tabarés raul.tabares@tecnalia.com @faraondemetal https://es.linkedin.com/in/rtabares www.tecnalia.com Thanks a lot and keep in touch!

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