Reconsidering Scale and Scaling in CSCW Research. A CSCW 2020 Workshop

Do you work with community-led, grassroots initiatives and are interested in problematising common understandings of what constitutes scale? Join our workshop on October 17/18, 2020

This one-day workshop invites discussion on the various socio-technical processes and dynamics that characterise scale and scaling in local, community-sited initiatives. Seeking to move beyond a view of scale as mere growth in numbers and a matter of technology-mediated replication, the workshop aims at developing a nuanced vocabulary to talk about various forms of scale and practices of scaling in CSCW research. It will bring together interdisciplinary scholars, activists, practitioners  and representatives of the public sector who wish to question and further develop the notion of scale generally associated with processes of upscaling. The workshop provides a forum to discuss: i) concepts, theories and empirical cases that broaden our view of what constitutes scale; and ii) the implications for CSCW research in assessing the long-term impact and sustenance of socio-technical innovations. The workshop will accommodate up to twenty participants and will be run virtually. 

A great book to think with

The last book discussed at our lovely book club.

A tale of diversity within our damaged landscapes, The Mushroom at the End of the World follows one of the strangest commodity chains of our times to explore the unexpected corners of capitalism. Here, we witness the varied and peculiar worlds of matsutake commerce: the worlds of Japanese gourmets, capitalist traders, Hmong jungle fighters, industrial forests, Yi Chinese goat herders, Finnish nature guides, and more. These companions also lead us into fungal ecologies and forest histories to better understand the promise of cohabitation in a time of massive human destruction.

By investigating one of the world’s most sought-after fungi, The Mushroom at the End of the World presents an original examination into the relation between capitalist destruction and collaborative survival within multispecies landscapes, the prerequisite for continuing life on earth.


Back from Edinburgh

Last week I was in Edinburgh for two Caring&Sharing COST Action meetings and for the Ethnographies of Collaborative Economies Conference. Both events were interesting and truly committed to bringing together European research on the Collaborative Economy and community-led initiatives. The conference proceedings can be found here. Looking forward to meeting again old and new friends/colleagues I met there.

From Commodities to Gifts: Redistributing Surplus Food Locally

New paper out, co-authored with Katie Berns

Abstract. This paper investigates the practices and dynamics of a grassroots initiative that takes a non-monetary sharing approach to the issue of food surplus. Food sharing Copenhagen (FS-CPH) is a community-led, volunteer-run organisation working towards reducing food waste by collecting surplus food from supermarkets, bakeries, and private individuals and redistributing it locally, for free. The analysis illustrates the practices of the three main working groups within the organisation, the role of technology within the organization, and how food is framed through a community economies approach.

The paper will be presented at the Ethnographies of Collaborative Economies Conference and can be found here.

Scaling Out, Scaling Down: Reconsidering growth in grassroots initiatives

New paper out , co-authored with Airi Lampinen and Christofer Gradin Franzén.

Abstract. In this paper, we reflect on how scaling out – recreating and reconfiguring horizontally the most promising practices across contexts (Manzini, 2015) – can help local, grassroots initiatives to grow in a socially sustainable fashion and to sustain their action over time. We ground our discussion on the case of Hoffice, a self-organizing network that is experimenting with an alternative social model for collectively organizing and supporting flexible forms of work. In a prior ethnographic study of the Hoffice network (Rossitto & Lampinen, 2018), we outlined the socio-technical practices and values that characterise this community. We complement this previous piece by zooming in on the community’s struggles in the face of rapid growth. We conclude by proposing a way to rethink the challenges that growth can pose.

The paper will be presented at the Ethnographies of Collaborative Economies Conference, and can be found here.

ECSCW 2019 is slowly taking shape

Last week Michael Muller and I sent out the first-round notifications for ECSCW 2019. For the last two editions the conference has adopted a journal model, and articles are published in the CSCW journal. Out of the 64 submitted articles, about half were invited to be resubmitted, and many will hopefully qualify for final acceptance. I’m very excited by the number of very interesting manuscripts I have read and how, if accepted, they could deepen and expand ECSCW research – this is also the best reward for the incredible amount of work that has gone into this process. The Program Committee members have also done an amazing and valuable job with the high quality reviews and comments they have provided the authors with. The community is indebted to them for their effort during a very busy and stressful time of the year, as December usually is, and for the scientific rigour, the politeness and sense of care I have seen in many reviews. 

Stay tuned and keep an eye open for the final program! 

New Collaboration Grant with Tokyo University

As the Swedih autumn gets darker and darker, we have receivded the very good news that our project proposal “Sketching with Frictions: Designing Mixed-Reality Experiences with VR”, lead by Asreen Rostami, got  funded by Stockholm University. We have received 100 000 SEK  to start a research collaboration between DSV/SU and Rekimoto Lab and VR research centre at the University of Tokyo. Looking forward to this new adventure.



Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor, by Virginia Eubanks

Today I finished reading this very intesting book on the effects of policy-algorithms on vulnerable people and social justice.

A powerful investigative look at data-based discrimination—and how technology affects civil and human rights and economic equity

The State of Indiana denies one million applications for healthcare, foodstamps and cash benefits in three years—because a new computer system interprets any mistake as “failure to cooperate.” In Los Angeles, an algorithm calculates the comparative vulnerability of tens of thousands of homeless people in order to prioritize them for an inadequate pool of housing resources. In Pittsburgh, a child welfare agency uses a statistical model to try to predict which children might be future victims of abuse or neglect.

Since the dawn of the digital age, decision-making in finance, employment, politics, health and human services has undergone revolutionary change. Today, automated systems—rather than humans—control which neighborhoods get policed, which families attain needed resources, and who is investigated for fraud. While we all live under this new regime of data, the most invasive and punitive systems are aimed at the poor.

In Automating Inequality, Virginia Eubanks systematically investigates the impacts of data mining, policy algorithms, and predictive risk models on poor and working-class people in America. The book is full of heart-wrenching and eye-opening stories, from a woman in Indiana whose benefits are literally cut off as she lays dying to a family in Pennsylvania in daily fear of losing their daughter because they fit a certain statistical profile.

The U.S. has always used its most cutting-edge science and technology to contain, investigate, discipline and punish the destitute. Like the county poorhouse and scientific charity before them, digital tracking and automated decision-making hide poverty from the middle-class public and give the nation the ethical distance it needs to make inhumane choices: which families get food and which starve, who has housing and who remains homeless, and which families are broken up by the state. In the process, they weaken democracy and betray our most cherished national values.


On writing in a second language and unpleasant reviews

CHI reviews were out last week and, as usual, they were the topic of extended dicussion until rebuttals were submitted. My reviews were quite split, and I had the bitter feeling I had submitted my article to the wrong sub-committe. Actually I almost felt stupid about it, stupid for spending a lot of effort on a piece of work and then giving it to people who obviously work with different topics – yes, always check out the names on the list, even if that commiittee has alwys been your confort zone. Writing the rebuttal was good to answer to what I felt were misunderstandings of my work and of reflective essays more in general. But it isn’t those misunderstandings I’m still annoyed about, not at all. It is R2’s tone (for real this time) that still bugs me. The review was really unpleasant in every single point raised, and it culminated with something that read like: “in fact one of the major weaknesses of this paper is the language and the many errors and typos”. This point was brought up, almost verbatim, by the AC. Now, I know my English is not perfect, but I also know it’s not broken and I’m sure it has never been a MAIN weakness of my writing. So in a growing, international, scientific community that only speaks English, why can’t we find a nice way to say that a certain paper needs (careful) proofreading? Why aren’t ACs more sensitive towards these issues?  Can these issues be pointed out in a rebuttal without compromising your work, once and for all? Why aren’t expert and novice external reviewers asked to be kind with their collegagues?