Friday, 20 April 2018

Drifting off topic

I was inspired to write this entry as a result of my thinking about blackboxing.  In science studies, blackboxing generally refers to processes of simplification that tend to hide the internal complexity of science and technology. This idea is associated with the work of Bruno Latour, who also co-wrote Laboratory life. My mind went off on a tangent, and I started thinking about living labs... and Linux.

I am a Linux user, by which I mean that all my computing devices run some form of Linux. Some of the reasons for this are practical in nature, while others are more philosophical. For example, Linux operating systems are generally more respectful of user privacy (Android is a significant exception) and do not “phone back home”. An additional aspect of the Linux world that I find endearing is the emphasis on transparency. It is most pronounced in the case of Arch Linux, which is one of the more extreme expressions of Linux. An excellent illustration of what I mean is encapsulated in a quote by the developer of Arch Linux, Aaron Griffin.
Relying on complex tools to manage and build your system is going to hurt the end users. [...] "If you try to hide the complexity of the system, you'll end up with a more complex system". Layers of abstraction that serve to hide internals are never a good thing. Instead, the internals should be designed in a way such that they NEED no hiding.
What does this have to do with living labs? Well, I reckon that, as a monitor, one of my responsibilities is to document the evolution of the living lab. The “process of becoming” will likely be messy for most living labs, but the purpose of documenting this process is that others can learn from you and your mistakes, and try out tools and approaches that have been useful for you.  In short, I see it as a matter of (i) keeping your internals open for inspection and (ii) showing that innovative learning emerged through exploratory tinkering that was integral to the whole enterprise. Accidents and failures do not need to be edited out or hidden.

In other words, I hope to do the opposite of blackboxing.


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