Engaged Autonomy: Digital Materiality, Experiential Learning and Possibility

Nancy Mauro-Flude
2010 Conference

This paper, via a case study of two hackspace events, elucidates how a hands-on collaborative, experiential learning approach may be beneficial in understanding emergent technologies both practically and conceptually. A hackspace is a location where people with common interests, usually in computers, technology, science and/or digital and electronic art can meet, socialise and/or collaborate. At Hackspace events participants who surface from mainly online communities, come from all over the world to meet up In Real Life (IRL) and learn about emergent technologies. Specifically the events I point to start with a course in basic hardware. These real life events are important as the organisers predominantly only interact online. The experiential approach is accessible and it encourages the participant to be an amateur in the realm of a technical professional, but instead of the constraint of the later, the former allows them to follow their own enthusiasms that open up new possibilities. I introduce the notion of ‘engaged autonomy’ referring to Charles Esche’s (2004) proposal as a way to think of autonomy not as something that is invested in the object itself but rather as an action or a way of working, through thinking things otherwise. Hackspace events pose a new radical set of models, which in turn provide inspiration and

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About the author

Researcher, PhD candidate and lecturer. MFA Media Design graduate – Piet Zwart Institute Willem de Kooning Academy: Rotterdam University, alumni DasArts: performing arts advanced institute. 2007 Honorary Researcher – School for Electronic Media, Slade School of Fine Art and artist-in-residence at the Museums Quartier in Electric Ave, Vienna. Awarded various prizes, commissions and grants, Nancy lectures, performs, exhibits at institutes throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, North/South America and beyond, including: Netherlands New Media Art Institute, Pixel (Norway), HONF (Indonesia), Imal (Brussels), CAST (Tasmania), MIT (Boston), Dartington Hall (Plymouth), Goldsmiths College (London), FILE and VERBO (Sao Paulo), ISEA 07–09, V2_Institute of Unstable Media (R’dam), ArtSpace (Sydney), TMAG (Hobart), Amber festival of body-process arts (Istanbul), Museum Quartier (Vienna), Critical Path (Sydney), STEIM (Amsterdam), WORM (R’dam), Australian Centre for Virtual Art (ACMI) and the World Wide Web. Alongside her art practice, she is a key figure in the introduction of innovative projects that engage with the digital divide and the free software movement at an institutional level and beyond. Founding member of Moddr_electronic art lab @ WORM Rotterdam, developer /etc Eclectic Tech Carnival, international hack lab [home brewed since 2002], and introduced Miss Despoina’s Hackspace Hobart. Recently she published this research in FLOSS+Art Book (London: Mute Publishing).