I usually write a blog post whenever I write or submit something to a conference, but for some reason I forgot to do that earlier this spring when me and three colleagues (Jorge Zapico, Hannes Ebner, Elina Eriksson) wrote and submitted a conference position paper, "Hacking sustainability: Broadening participation through Green Hackathons" (abstract below). Do get in touch if you want a copy of the paper - here's the story behind it.
The Fourth International Symposium on End-User Development (EUD) will be held in Copenhagen next month (June 11-13). EUD is all about "non-professional software developers, who create, modify and extend a software artifact". More specifically, it's about "modding, mashing, and tailoring [...] Spreadsheets, databeases, web mash-ups, as well as content management systems and software products like ERP [Enterprise Resource Planning] systems".
Two workshops will be held the day before the conference (June 10), and one of them seemed to fit us neatly; "End-User Development for supporting sustainability in maker communities". This is part of the workshop call for participation:
"There has been a recent proliferation of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) communities that can broadly be included under the maker movement umbrella. Many of these groups are engaged in DIY projects in areas that related to sustainable living, such as urban gardening groups engaged in growing their own food in urban areas, home energy monitoring communities interested in improving their homes to support a more energy efficient living, and textile crafts people who engage in home production, as well as recycling and upcycling of textiles. Spurred by the possibilities of digital fabrication and the Internet, the maker movement has a great potential to support sustainable living by fostering related innovations, fostering their appropriation and propagating their practical use. However, technology-driving maker communities associated with FabLabs or Hackerspaces are often perceived as places for tech-savvy people nad have difficulties to instantiate a sustainable dialogue with the society at large. Hence, attracting wider categories of public, as well as sharing innovations created by users are still seen as challenges."
While the workshop mentions three hot topics; "End-User Development", "sustainability" and "maker communities", I'n not 100% sure exactly how these three all go together. Especially the connection between sustainability and maker communities seem a little hazy to me. Our paper has nothing at all to do with maker communities - which obviously is the focus of the workshop (organizers) - but since the organizers also point out that (broader) participation is a major problem for tech-driven movements, we decided to focus on the issues of sustainability, (green) hackathons and participation and write up a 4-6 pages long paper for the workhsop. Unfortunately we made that decision less than 10 days before the March 14 deadline, but we still managed to whip something together (despite everyone, always, being so damn busy) and submit it in time. Our submission was accepted and we then had lots of time to revise it before submitting the final version in the beginning of May. Our paper clocks in at 8.25 pages and here is the abstract:
Green Hackathon is an international series of coding events with sustainability purpose. Developers, researchers, environmental practitioners, and anyone else who is interested, work for a limited amount of time to create innovative software solutions for sustainability. These events have explicitly aimed to invite a broad spectrum of expertise besides technical expertise. This article presents the experiences and tensions of including these end users at a mostly technically oriented event, and discusses how end-user development could be used to encourage more reflective practices and as well as broadening the participation and the interdisciplinary collaboration in these events – with higher-quality as a prospective outcome.
I will probably not go to the workshop (June 10) since I will go to another conference the day after (June 11-13), but my colleague Jorge will go to Copenhagen to participate in the workshop and to present our paper. That is fitting since he is not just the first author of the paper, but also one of the two initiators/organizers of the Green Hackathon events (seven have been organized this far).
While this is a "lessons learned" paper, we have discussed the possibility of planning and doing a "real" study (i.e. collect material). Since there will be a Green Hackathon organized in Stockholm at the end of next summer (2014), we might target that event for a study. A study of something (not-yet-decided).