Issue-Oriented Hackathons

2012 – present
Carl DiSalvo, Thomas Lodato, and Melissa Gregg


Hackathons have become a cultural phenomenon of sorts – at least once a month there seems to be another one happening. Some of these are focused on a specific technology or platform (such as javascript or mobile hackathons), but increasingly they are what we call issue-oriented hackathons: events at which groups of people come together to address socially-oriented “challenges” through the development technical interventions, usually software, sometimes hardware. Since the summer of 2012 we’ve been researching issue-oriented hackathons, taking on roles as both critical observers and reflective participants. We are particularly interested in so-called civic hackathons and hackathons related to food and food systems.

In addition to studying how issue-oriented hackathons might contribute to the articulation of issues and the formation of publics, we are also interested in probing the existing and possible relationships between hackathons and design. Are hackathons a site of design? A mode of design? Or something altogether different?

One possibility is to consider hackathons as a mode of ad-hoc design: a design practice that is equally intentional and contingent. This ad-hoc design serves two purposes. First it enables a dynamic process of invention, distributed across events, and second, it facilitates experimentation in orienting people and resources toward issues.

This research is ongoing and, hopefully, will provide insight into new modes of collective action and design, while also illuminating the rhetorics and limitations of hackathons as sites and practices of innovation and civics.

Posted by cdisalvo on November 19, 2013

Category: Food and Food Systems Other Projects


Where the social computing gets made.

The Intel Science and Technology Center for Social Computing (ISTC-Social) is a multi-institution effort to study and invent new forms of social computing. One of the distinguishing aspects of the ISTC-Social is that it is not an engineering project. Rather, the participating researchers bring theories and methods from the social sciences, humanities, and design to critically interpret what social computing is and what social computing could be.

I serve on the Executive Committee and manage the Creativity and Collectivity theme. The ISTC-Social is based at UC Irvine, with collaborators at NYU, Cornell, and Indiana University . At Georgia Tech, the Co-PIS are Ian Bogost and Chris Le Dantec.

Social Computing is the study of information technologies and digital media as social and cultural phenomena.

Since its earliest days, computing has always been a social phenomenon, from people gathered around a screen to play Spacewar to the emergence of email as ARPANET’s “killer app.” As technologies have evolved, so too have the social and cultural issues with which they are entwined. The 21st century Internet is one of social media, social networking, community engagement and cultural connection. The technical challenges of advanced IT development are matched by challenges in understanding the social contexts, cultural practices, and policy questions of technology and digital media, but the predominant research frameworks with which we typically address them are those that emphasize individual experience in interaction.

The Intel Science and Technology Center (ISTC) for Social Computing will establish a new paradigm for computing, moving from the personal to the social. Its hub is at UC Irvine, and its partner (“spoke”) institutions are NYU, Cornell University, Georgia Tech, and Indiana University. In collaboration with researchers from Intel, the Center undertakes research that will identify and develop theories, frameworks, and methods that will drive new scholarly research, new technology prototypes, new policy interventions, and new areas of innovation. The Center will facilitate research and collaboration at the vanguard of the emerging era of massively networked, mobile and cloud computing, while providing tools to understand and build on the history of earlier systems of social and technological interaction.

Posted by cdisalvo on August 20, 2013

Category: Other Projects