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Theorizing the Web : Hackathons are More than Hacks

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Willow Brugh

on 31 January 2017

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Transcript of Theorizing the Web : Hackathons are More than Hacks

@natematias
@willowbl00
Theorizing the Web 2014
MeetSpace: Rethinking Public Spheres
Project Stories Are Not Enough:
Why Hackathons are More than Hacks

"hackers"
industry
entrepreneurial
"social good"
1980s
1990s
2000s
2010s
Caezars Challenge
1997
2007
2009
ecohack
2003
F/OSS
"What I like about the hackathons we do is they are far more about education than about production. Stuff gets done, but it's not about deploying it immediately. Learn, figure out where the problems are. Work for the people they're intended for." - L
"For the most part, teams struggle to get something that is barely demo-able. You end up with a prototype that may have some features that work. Scramble at end to include as many APIs as possible to garner prizes." - D
"Inappropriately fetishized as productivity when they are actually social things. Symptom of a larger set of pathologies in social change." - G
"We grew up writing apps, to entertain ourselves, and to make our lives easier. The hackathon model has really grown out of that." - K
"Co-optation of the term by companies for internal brainstorming processes reminds me of the co-option of makerspces for STEM by academics. These things have deep contexts, and when they don't have the feeder context, they will die." - B
What's going on here?
community building and engagement with institutions
Critiques
Produces incomplete & short-lived projects
Free labor for companies & gov't
Doesn't create fundamental change
False Empowerment: Solutionism in a weekend
Distraction: People feel good about shiny ideas that never have impact
Emphasizes superstars rather than communities
Entrenches exclusion by favoring people with technical skills
What ties these critiques together is
an emphasis on media portrayals
and less a focus on actual
community practices we're
seeing
HackathonFAQ.com
"Public education. While production is important, getting people to understand that technology isn't just for iPhone apps, knowing tech isn't just for corporate use is important....

"what we can create doesn't just make us more advanced, it makes us a better society..... Create more equality through education and access."
- Lindsay
"Hackathons are a compelling version of building solidarity by doing things together. I think they are excellent community building efforts if they are framed primarily as community building efforts." - G
"One overall purpose that hackathons do achieve is education in technology.... whether it's social good or social enterprise, people end up learning more about technology than they knew before."

"A skill, an API, form a connection, a work connection, not just technology stuff but design.. you get exposed to a wide array of people."

--Diggz
"I think the networking or community building aspects of it are often undervalued. In terms of building a successful technology community, start-up community, any of these things." - K
(not comprehensive, just hackathons addressed in this research)
Full transcript