Call for abstracts: ‘Open and collaborative forms of organisation for the production of knowledge and material artefacts in the Global South’

The following session will be hosted at the STS Graz Conference 2021, which will take place online from May 3-5, 2021.

Session B.13 Open and collaborative forms of organisation for the production of knowledge and material artefacts in the Global South

  The widespread diffusion of the internet combined with the emergence of various digital communication platforms has drastically changed the ability of spatially dispersed communities to interact with each other. This has led to the formation of new modes for the production of knowledge and material artefacts making use of open and collaborative forms of organisation. For example, the open science movement uses virtual platforms to make research outputs freely available to various audiences and to involve study participants in the design of research and the collection of data. The case of the hacker community illustrates that the open and collaborative development of software can result in highly competitive products (e.g., Linux, Firefox). More recently, we have also witnessed a growing number of open hardware networks that design tools and machinery in a collaborative manner (e.g., based on 3D printing or CNC milling) and make these openly accessible for others to replicate, improve, or sell.

  While most open and collaborative initiatives for the production of knowledge and artefacts based on digital platforms are currently centred in the Global North, they also hold great promise for communities in the Global South. For example, they allow for the rapid diffusion of knowledge through transfer and co-production, thus, enabling users in low- and middle-income countries to access previously unavailable knowledge. This includes opportunities for local entrepreneurship based on the commercial exploitation of open knowledge. Furthermore, open and collaborative networks can promote the development of contextually appropriate technologies due to the involvement of a broad base of users who are usually left out of technology development processes. However, there are also some barriers to the diffusion of such open and collaborative initiatives in the Global South. For instance, communities that would benefit most from locally appropriate solutions often face shortages in appropriate material infrastructures and knowledge/skills bases to participate in open and collaborative networks.

  We invite papers that investigate open and collaborative organisational forms for the production of knowledge and artefacts in the context of communities located in the Global South. This can include submissions focusing on open science, open software, and open hardware across a variety of sectors (education, health care, agriculture, energy, etc.). For example, papers could empirically investigate the nature of existing open and collaborative projects and their impacts on the communities involved. Submissions could also investigate which elements of projects require adaptation to the specific contexts found in many low- and middle-income countries. They could also assess the relevance of open and collaborative initiatives for mainstream institutions in developing country contexts, such as government agencies, research institutions, or donors. The session presents an opportunity to share insights on ongoing research and to connect with fellow scholars focusing on this emerging phenomenon.

Please send your abstract (500 words max.) including title, author, and affiliation to Tobias Reinauer ( by February 26, with in cc.

Submission of a full paper is optional. The deadline for this is May 31. Papers will be peer-reviewed and made available as conference proceedings by the TU Graz Verlag.

For more information, visit the STS Graz Conference 2021 website.

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