Researching the Openness

First part of the “Open Everything: Theories, Methodologies and Practices” workshop at the Tampere Art Factory (TAF) international week in Finland has attracted a cozy group of participants. Five were present during my (didactic) presentation introducing concepts from the Science and Technologies Studies (STS) (such as technological determinism, social determinism, social shaping of technologies, mutual shaping of technologies, materiality and everyday practices). Three stayed to do the hands-on exercise: map the concepts of and issues related to “openness”, visualise the concept map, and conduct a live research. One stayed to help with presenting the results (thank you, Vasia!). 

In the current climate where media convergent and the user-participatory cultures are so much favoured (perhaps over-zealous), many workshops here at the TAF bear similar ideas around audience engagement, crowdsourcing, interaction and connection. From my observation at the workshop “Producing with the Audience” yesterday, the USPs of my workshop is to foreground the importance of user-generated, user-participatory, and user-distributed materials in light of social theories and methodologies, to answer the “why” and “how” questions through theoretical underpinning and rigorous research.

During the hands-on session, the three participants were asked to put down 5 things they could think of in relation to “the openness” on post-it notes (1 thing per post-it note). (Unsurprisingly, what they noted down was influenced by the workshop description and the presentation I had just given to them.) They then were asked to group these post-it notes together and turned them into a concept map of “openness” (see below). 


Then, they were asked to visualise this concept map by visual language ONLY. They started with visualise the concept of “open source code” – computer wires (top left), 0/1 code (top left). Then, the idea of “network” and “community” was realised – people with different colours, up-side-down locating on different continents, with different shapes. Then, there are barriers and issues (digital divide, regulations). See the final picture below.


 An interesting question emerged during this concept mapping exercise. Lucas asked “What does the G in GNU Licences stand for”. I gave him a standard answer, but he was asking that question as a joke paying homage to recursive acronyms. I proposed to ask the question before the key prompt question for our live research “How would you find out things that you don’t already know”. So we set off for our live research using unstructured interview method quizzing these two questions to “random” passers-by on the Puuvillakatu Street in front of the School. 

We polled opinions from ten people, including this chap working in one of the shops on the street, taking his smoke break.


The seemingly chaotic and unstructured research project got brighter and brighter after we started to collect more and more data. The workshop participants were gaining confidence in the project they were involved in. Eventually, we arrived at some conclusions for the two initial questions, though more questions emerge (for example, why 99% of the people Google or search on the Internet for the things they don’t know, and why they said that they would go to Library or ask family or friends if there was no Internet). The whole research process resonates what research is about – open, never-ended, dynamic, non-linear process. Things open in the air do have patterns and orders, but there are also uncertainties and individual differences. Journal articles are published when some conclusion can be drawn from the data collected. 

Vasia, the student who participated throughout the whole workshop reflected: 

“The experience I gained from the Openeverything workshop illuminates that the content created really is shaped by everyone involved: those who researched, those interviewed, those who consumed it afterwards.The respondents in the research helped us generate new ideas and questions through their participation along the research process. It would have been different if it were different participants and different researchers.”

She continued:

“I think openness depends very much on how open-minded people are, whether they are willing to work with others, and share ideas. That’s the essence of open innovation. If people don’t want to work together, exchange ideas, and learn something new, it’s not possible.”. 

I think experiencing a live research says it all about “Open Everything” and “co-production of knowledge”, don’t you?


One thought on “Researching the Openness

  1. Thank you for this workshop. It was a lovely day. I think people get so preoccupied with complexity that we sometimes miss the basics. For me, this day was a good and necessary look into the concept of openness, how it operates and how we are part of it, through a live experiment/research.


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