Project

PIONEER COMMUNITIES: The Quantified Self and Maker Movements as Collective Actors of Deep Mediatization

Goal: The past decade has seen the rise of collectivities that act as hybrids of social movements and think tanks and strive to shape the intertwined change of media, culture and society: pioneer communities. Based on particular forms of collectivity, they build a bridge between media development and the everyday use of media and promote technological changes. Distinctive present examples are the Maker and Quantified Self movements. The aim of the project is to conduct a comparative investigation of how the changing media environment enables these two pioneer communities in Germany and the UK, and how at the same time the change of the media environment is advanced by them, their imagined and practiced concepts of media-related collectivity and societal transfor- mation, and the public discourse surrounding them. As a further context of this, the origins of the pioneer communities in the US San Francisco Bay Area and important events in Europe are investigated.

Date: 1 December 2017

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Andreas Hepp
added a research item
This chapter examines the transnational Twitter followee-network of the Quantified Self (QS) and Maker movements. Based on a media ethnography as a pre-study, the following questions are addressed: How is the organisational elite of both pioneer communities connected? What patterns and peculiarities can be identified in terms of account types and thematic orientation? What similarities and differences exist between countries and between each community? The chapter sets out to explain the ways in which the organisational elite of the QS movement is represented as a network of opinion leaders, made up mostly of QS conference and meetup organisers with strong connections to tech entrepreneurs. The Maker movement is represented as a network of heterogeneous organisations which range from organisational accounts to tech companies, community platforms, and journalistic outlets as well as specific maker events and projects. Globally, both networks are dominated by members of their organisational elites which are located in the San Francisco Bay Area, which then go on to unfold their transnational influence. On this empirical basis, we argue that critical data studies should pay much more attention to the role played by pioneer communities and their partly invisible engagement in the global spread of imaginaries that promise to transform society through technology and data practices.
Andreas Hepp
added a research item
Zusammenfassung Im journalistischen Diskurs wird der Wandel von Gesellschaft hin zu einer „digitalen Gesellschaft“ immer wieder mit Konzepten der disruptiven Veränderung und der Rolle von Start-ups bei dieser gefasst. In Abgrenzung zu solchen verkürzenden Vorstellungen diskutiert der Beitrag die Rolle von Pioniergemeinschaften in Transformationsprozessen der tiefgreifenden Mediatisierung von Gesellschaft. Medienbezogene Pioniergemeinschaften, wie beispielsweise die Quantified-Self‑, Maker- oder Hacks/Hackers-Bewegung, zeichnen sich insbesondere durch ihre experimentellen Praktiken und Imaginationen einer Veränderbarkeit von Gesellschaft durch Medientechnologien aus. Der Beitrag beschreibt den Lebenszyklus von Pioniergemeinschaften, angefangen von ihrer Formierung aus dem Kontext weiterer sozialer Bewegungen und technologiebezogener Gemeinschaften, über ihre Hochphase mit einer großen medialen Aufmerksamkeit und dem Entstehen von Start-ups sowie Ausgründungen bis hin zu deren Ausklang, der immer wieder mit einer teilweisen Veralltäglichung ihres Experimentierens und ihrer Imaginationen einher geht. Dabei wird argumentiert, dass die Rolle von Pioniergemeinschaften in Prozessen tiefgreifender Mediatisierung insbesondere in ihrer Horizonterprobung besteht, also dem Ausloten möglicher Veränderungen, sowie in Prozessen der Übersetzung, worunter einerseits die Übersetzung von Ideen zwischen verschiedenen gesellschaftlichen Domänen zu verstehen ist, andererseits die Übertragung des Experimentellen. Pioniergemeinschaften werden so als wichtige kollektive Akteure der tiefgreifenden Mediatisierung von Gesellschaft greifbar.
Andreas Hepp
added a research item
Until the end of the last century, media sociology was synonymous with the investigation of mass media as a social domain. Today, media sociology needs to address a much higher level of complexity, that is, a deeply mediatized world in which all human practices, social relations, and social order are entangled with digital media and their infrastructures. This article discusses this shift from a sociology of mass communication to the sociology of a deeply mediatized world. The principal aim of the article is to outline a new media-sociological imagination: media sociology as a cross-sectional sociology, a sociology of entanglement, and a new critical sociology of technological deep structures.
Andreas Hepp
added a research item
One of the most challenging questions regarding the transformation of space refers to media and communications: How do digital media change space and our experience of space? This question is often discussed in isolation, losing sight of its overarching context. This chapter develops a theory of the refiguration of society by digital media and their infrastructures and provides an understanding of how profound today’s media-related changes are for the individual as well as institutions, organizations, and communities. First, the chapter briefly highlights how we should not regard deep mediatization as a process that is homogeneous within a society, or even across societies, but as something that is domain specific. On the basis of these reflections, the chapter develops a figurational approach to media and communications in order to explain how we can imagine a refiguration of society as part of deep mediatization. To conclude, the chapter refers to the consequences of this for an analysis of media and space. In sum, the main argument is that the media-related transformations of space must be placed in the broader context of deep mediatization’s contribution to societal transformation.
Andreas Hepp
added a research item
Using ethnographic methods to investigate the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic affected two Makerspaces, we discuss the limits of the of Maker movement’s ideological foundations. Both spaces moved their activities online but differ in their engagement with Corona-specific projects: While the eLab Berlin decided to avoid any involvement due to legal and practical issues, the South London Makerspace produced face shields using 3D printing and laser cutting processes. Across these differences in engagement, our main argument is that the pandemic caused, in both cases, a shock of the real, for the Maker ideology: Individually, the spaces’ members were shocked at what the pandemic meant for the limits of their practice. From a more macro perspective, there was a shock of the real for the entire movement as a whole as the pandemic revealed the limits of its claims; the idea that the Maker movement can develop fast creative ideas and physical prototypes, which can then be scaled-up in production and, therefore, restructure manufacturing processes on a societal level.
Andreas Hepp
added 3 research items
Es ist gerade einmal dreißig Jahre her, dass der britische Informatiker Timothy Berners-Lee und sein belgischer Kollege Robert Cailliau die technischen Grundlagen des World Wide Web entwickelten. Die von ihnen eingeläutete Digitale Revolution hat unsere Gesellschaften seither ebenso radikal wie nachhaltig verändert – und ein Ende ist nicht abzusehen. Der unablässige Zuwachs der Rechen-, Speicher- und Kommunikationskapazitäten sowie die unüberschaubare Vielzahl immer neuer technischer Geräte, Anwendungen und Programme verschieben permanent die Grenzen des Üblichen und des Möglichen. Die mit der Digitalisierung einhergehenden Transformationsprozesse wirken sich aber auch auf unser soziales Zusammenleben aus. Sie betreffen alle Bereiche des Öffentlichen und des Privaten und bringen laufend neue Praktiken hervor. Diese sind jedoch nicht nur von unseren Intentionen als Nutzer*innen geprägt, sondern auch von den Vorgaben der Programmierer*innen, Entwickler*innen oder Produzent*innen, die mittels Algorithmen, Datenbanken oder Schlagworten mehr oder weniger unbemerkt unser Verhalten steuern. Was aber bedeutet es, wenn uns immer mehr Parameter unseres eigenen Denkens, Handelns und Urteilens gar nicht mehr transparent sind? Und welche Möglichkeiten haben wir, uns den Mechanismen der digitalen Hörigkeit zu entziehen?
Wir sind auf dem Weg zur digitalen Gesellschaft, aber wir sind noch lange nicht angekommen. Andreas Hepp beleuchtet in seinem Buch die tiefgreifende Mediatisierung der Gesellschaft. Er fokussiert den Umgang mit digitalen Medien, ihre Infrastrukturen und die automatisierte Verarbeitung der Daten, die wir alle online hinterlassen. Hepp diskutiert die Rolle der Industrie, des Staates und der Pioniergemeinschaften dabei und fragt danach, warum digitale Medien als Plattformen und kommunikative Roboter immer „prozesshafter“ werden. Was bedeuten diese Veränderungen für Organisationen, Gemeinschaften und Individuen? Und wie sollten wir einen solchen Wandel gestalten, um zu der digitalen Gesellschaft zu gelangen, die wir uns auch wünschen? Andreas Hepp legt mit diesem Buch eine umfassende, auf empirischer Forschung basierende Analyse des mit Medien und deren Digitalisierung zusammenhängenden Gesellschaftswandels vor. Dabei bleibt er aber nicht bei einer solchen Analyse stehen, sondern wirft auch die normative Frage auf, wie digitale Medien und Infrastrukturen einem „guten Leben“ dienen können.
Andreas Hepp
added a research item
This article presents the results of a comparative discourse analysis of coverage of the Maker and Quantified Self movements in the German and British (online) press over the period 2007 to 2019. The analysis is based on three research questions: To what extent are these two pioneer communities the subject of public discourse? Which patterns structure the discourse on these pioneer communities? And what can be concluded in regard to the significance of this coverage for the processes of deep mediatization? In essence, the article shows that-across both countries under investigation-the discourse around the Maker movement tends to be utopian, while the discourse around the Quantified Self movement tends to be dystopian. What both have in common, however, is that technology is assumed to have a high potential for social change, which corresponds to the "Californian ideology" of the San Francisco Bay Area / Silicon Valley. A horizon of imagination is constructed that implies * Prof. Dr. Andreas Hepp, Universität Bremen, Zentrum für Medien-, Kommunikations-& In-formationsforschung, Linzer Straße 4, 28359 Bremen, Deutschland, ahepp@uni-bremen.de, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7292-4147. Susan Benz, M. A, Universität Bremen, Zentrum für Medien-, Kommunikations-& Informati-onsforschung, Linzer Straße 4, 28359 Bremen, Deutschland, s.benz@uni-bremen.de, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1359-8772; Piet Simon, Deutschland, pisimon@gmx.de. Open Access-http://www.nomos-elibrary.de/agb that society can be unilaterally transformed by technology-a horizon in which people then position themselves in everyday life when appropriating digital media and communication technologies.
Andreas Hepp
added a research item
Wir leben in Zeiten tiefgreifender Mediatisierung. Damit ist gemeint, dass unsere heutigen Gesellschaften mit digitalen Medien und Infrastrukturen so durchdrungen sind, dass diese konstitutiv geworden sind für die soziale Welt. Indem digitale Medien auf Software basieren, sind sie nicht nur Mittel der Kommunikation, sondern auch der fortlaufenden Datengenerierung und -auswertung geworden. Ausgehend von diesen Überlegungen wird in diesem Beitrag das Phänomen der kommunikativen Roboter als einem an Relevanz gewinnenden Gegenstand der Kommunikations- und Medienwissenschaft näher betrachtet. In einem ersten Schritt werden Artificial Companions, Social Bots und Work Bots als Beispiele kommunikativer Roboter beleuchtet, um so zu einer Grundlage der Beschreibung des Phänomens zu gelangen. Dies dient in einem zweiten Schritt dazu zu fassen, was die Herausforderungen einer kommunikations- und medienwissenschaftlichen Beschäftigung mit kommunikativen Robotern sind. Ausgehend hiervon wird dann deutlich gemacht, dass kommunikative Roboter an der Schnittstelle von automatisierter Kommunikation und kommunikativer Automatisierung zu sehen sind.
Andreas Hepp
added a research item
This article presents the results of a discourse analysis of press coverage on the Quantified Self (QS) movement in the German and British (online) press between 2007 and 2018. The analysis is driven by two questions: What discursive patterns can be discerned within this coverage? And, what characterizes the translation of the experimental practices and imaginaries of this pioneer community into an overall societal reflection of deep mediatization? In essence, the article shows that the QS movement becomes a ‘general signifier’ for a dystopian view of deep mediatization. So, while the QS movement itself understands its practices and community as self-empowering, self-reasoning, and experimental, the constructions of the QS movement in public discourse suggest the opposite. Paradoxically, however, another basic imaginary of the pioneer community is adopted and confirmed, namely that of the (simple) mutability of society as a consequence of digital media technologies.
Andreas Hepp
added a research item
The aim of this article is to reconstruct the ways in which the organizational elites of the Quantified Self and Maker movements curate their respective pioneer communities. Based on a media ethnography carried out in Germany, the UK, and the USA it is demonstrated that the two movements adopt different curatorial models: curation through the use of an ‘unenforced trademark’ in the case of the Quantified Self movement and curation through ‘franchising’ in the case of the Maker movement. The fragility of both models is not necessarily a disadvantage to either and it has contributed to the rapid global spread of both communities. An analysis of these curatorial practices demonstrates that while these communities like to present themselves as having emerged from local groupings, rising ‘from below’, they are, in fact, figurations whose origin and overall exertion of influence can be traced back to Silicon Valley and the Whole Earth Network.
Andreas Hepp
added a research item
The aim of this article is to outline ‘communicative robots’ as an increasingly relevant field of media and communication research. Communicative robots are defined as autonomously operating systems designed for the purpose of quasi-communication with human beings to enable further algorithmic-based functionalities – often but not always on the basis of artificial intelligence. Examples of these communicative robots can be seen in the now familiar artificial companions such as Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, the social bots present on social media platforms or work bots that automatically generate journalistic content. In all, the article proceeds in three steps. Initially, it takes a closer look at the three examples of artificial companions, social bots and work bots in order to accurately describe the phenomenon and their recent insinuation into everyday life. This will then allow me to grasp the challenges posed by the increasing need to deal with communicative robots in media and communication research. It is from this juncture from where I would like to draw back on the discussion about the automation of communication and clearly outline how communicative robots are more likely than physical artefacts to be experienced at the interface of automated communication and communicative automation.
Andreas Hepp
added a research item
Andreas Hepp takes an integrative look at one of the biggest questions in media and communications research: how digital media is changing society. Often, such questions are discussed in isolation, losing sight of the overarching context in which they are situated. Hepp has developed a theory of the re-figuration of society by digital media and their infrastructures, and provides an understanding of how profound today’s media-related changes are, not only for institutions, organizations and communities, but for the individual as well. Rooted in the latest research, this book does not stop at a description of media-related change; instead, it raises the normative challenge of what deep mediatization should look like so that it might just stimulate a 'good life' for all. Providing original and critical research, the book introduces deep mediatization to students of media and cultural studies, as well as neighboring disciplines like sociology, political science and other cognate disciplines.Andreas Hepp takes an integrative look at one of the biggest questions in media and communications research: how digital media is changing society.
Andreas Hepp
added a research item
Academic research typically portrays the Maker Movement as a bottom-up emancipatory movement that emerged out of localised, grassroots initiatives. On the basis of a broad media ethnography that gathered data in Germany, Great Britain, and the USA, this article demonstrates the myopia of this assessment. Rather than being a bottom-up movement, the Maker Movement is in fact a pioneer community with intimate connections to the corporate world and the political class maintained by a globally spread organisational elite. The increasingly global sweep of the Maker Movement is a complex act of co-construction involving an abundance of different actors. With its curatorial centre firmly embedded within the offices of the Maker Media company-guiding the discourse on the movement's identity through its periodical Make: and its experiential experiences through international Maker Faires-the Maker Movement has its organisational basis in a franchise model that leaves it open to the flexible influence of an organisational elite who secures the intellectual and physical space for individual practitioners and local groups.
Anne Schmitz
added an update
Academic research typically portrays the Maker Movement as a bottom-up emancipatory movement that emerged out of localised, grassroots initiatives. On the basis of a broad media ethnography that gathered data in Germany, Great Britain, and the USA, this article demonstrates the myopia of this assessment. Rather than being a bottom-up movement, the Maker Movement is in fact a pioneer community with intimate connections to the corporate world and the political class maintained by a globally spread organisational elite. The increasingly global sweep of the Maker Movement is a complex act of co-construction involving an abundance of different actors. With its curatorial centre firmly embedded within the offices of the Maker Media company—guiding the discourse on the movement's identity through its periodical Make: and its experiential experiences through international Maker Faires—the Maker Movement has its organisational basis in a franchise model that leaves it open to the flexible influence of an organisational elite who secures the intellectual and physical space for individual practitioners and local groups.
 
Andreas Hepp
added a research item
In diesem Working Paper wird für die Jahre 2007 bis 2017 vergleichend für Deutschland und Großbritannien der öffentliche Diskurs um Quantified Self und Maker Bewegung jenseits von Fachmagazinen und thematisch einschlägigen Webseiten bzw. Blogs untersucht. Hierbei haben wir eine dreifache Fragestellung: In welchem Umfang sind diese beiden Pioniergemeinschaften Gegenstand eines öffentlichen Diskurses? Welchen Stellenwert haben einzelne Technologien in der Berichterstattung über sie? Und welche Diskursmuster werden in der Berichterstattung über die Pioniergemein- schaften greifbar? Zur Bearbeitung dieser dreifachen Fragestellung haben wir eine Diskursanalyse der wichtigsten allgemeinen Zeitungen (einschließlich ihrer Online- Ausgaben) in beiden Ländern durchgeführt. Die Annahme dabei ist, dass die Berichterstattung in diesen Zeitungen ein guter Indikator für einen breiteren öffentlichen Diskurs ist. Im Kern können wir zeigen, dass — über beide Untersuchungsländer hinweg — der Diskurs um die Maker-Bewegung in der Tendenz utopisch orientiert ist, während der Diskurs um die Quantified-Self-Bewegung eher dystopisch orientiert ist. Gemeinsam ist beiden, dass Technologie ein hohes Potenzial für gesellschaftliche Veränderung unterstellt wird.
Andreas Hepp
added a research item
On the basis of a media ethnography of self-trackers and their self-quantification, we argue in this article that the ways related media technologies and digital traces are appropriated depends on the overall contexts of these self-trackers. There are at least three kinds of contexts that matter: first, the context of further practices, of which self-tracking and self-quantification are a part; second, the context of social figurations the self-trackers are involved in or related to; and, third, the context of societal discourses about the self in present societies. These contexts come together in two fundamental types of self-tracker, whom we call "pragmatists" and "enthusiasts." These two types differ in the way they use digital traces for self-tracking and the meaning of self-tracking in their everyday lives. However, both types can be understood as an expression of a new form of constructing the self in times of deep mediatization. Self-tracking and self-quantification have become an everyday phenomenon. Only a few years ago, this set of practices was characteristic of a focused, dedicated group of people driven by the pioneering idea of the "quantified self." The popularity of self-tracking devices such as activity trackers, smart watches, and smartphones with respective apps made self-tracking a widespread phenomenon in the West. As the use of these devices becomes more common, some users are well aware of the digital traces they produce. Others are far less aware of the footprints that are left online when they use such media technologies. In those cases, digital traces arise in an unintended way that is a side effect of the use of the devices. In this article, we investigate this particular kind of usage of digital traces and its entanglement with further practices. We argue that the way the media technologies of self-tracking and the traces produced by them are appropriated depends on individuals' overall contexts. There are at least three kinds of context that matter: first, the context of further practices, of which self-tracking and self-quantification are a part; second, the context of the social figurations the self-trackers are involved in or related to
Andreas Hepp
added an update
We are looking for two doctoral research assistants (German and English language skills needed). Deadline for applications is February 16th 2018. For further information, please visit our website: http://www.zemki.uni-bremen.de/de/aktuelles/nachricht/article//neue-stellen-4.html
 
Andreas Hepp
added an update
The project "Pioneer communities: The Quantified Self- and Maker-Movement as Collective Actors of Deep Mediatization" received funding by the German Research Foundation (DFG). For further information, see: http://www.zemki.uni-bremen.de/en/news/news/article//pioniere-des.html
 
Andreas Hepp
added an update
The project web page with further information is online: http://www.kommunikative-figurationen.de/en/projekte/pioneer-communities.html
 
Andreas Hepp
added a project reference
Andreas Hepp
added a project goal
The past decade has seen the rise of collectivities that act as hybrids of social movements and think tanks and strive to shape the intertwined change of media, culture and society: pioneer communities. Based on particular forms of collectivity, they build a bridge between media development and the everyday use of media and promote technological changes. Distinctive present examples are the Maker and Quantified Self movements. The aim of the project is to conduct a comparative investigation of how the changing media environment enables these two pioneer communities in Germany and the UK, and how at the same time the change of the media environment is advanced by them, their imagined and practiced concepts of media-related collectivity and societal transfor- mation, and the public discourse surrounding them. As a further context of this, the origins of the pioneer communities in the US San Francisco Bay Area and important events in Europe are investigated.