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Sebastian Dahm

 Sebastian Dahm
Graduate Student

Technische Universität Berlin
School VI: Planning Building Environment
Department of Sociology

Fraunhoferstraße 33-36
Sekretariatszeichen FH 9-1
10587 Berlin

Tel.: +49 (0)30 /314 27308
Room: FH 822

Wednesday, 10:00-11:00am, Room 822

Please register via e-mail! 

Research Project

Hacking and making: epistemic practices of technological innovation

Hacking and making can be considered as ‘neighbouring’ forms of creative engagement with technology. While in a narrow sense, the term hacking refers to a quick and dirty approach to programming, in a broader sense it is used to describe an experimental and playful way to interact with computer technology and its limitations – as well as the political implications of such activities (Coleman 2013; 2017). Compared with the hacking community, whose origins can be traced back to the MIT computer labs of the 1950s and 60s (Levy 2010; Raymond 2001), making is a quite new phenomenon. Only since the 2000s, the common availability of complex production technologies (3D printing, laser cutting etc.) gave rise to a community dedicated explicitly to the systematic production of novel goods and artefacts (Richterich and Wenz 2017).

Between hacking and making, several connecting lines can be drawn. However, the exact nature of these connections remains scarcely systematised. Due to the heterogeneous and brittle nature of existing connections and boundaries between the communities, a sole, unifying definition does not seem sustainable (Kubitschko 2017; Richterich and Wenz 2017). Recent literature emphasises the transfer of organisational principles and methods of production from the open source software movement to making communities (“open hardware”) and therefore focuses on value-added processes (Smith et al. 2013; Dickel et al. 2014; Hielscher 2017).  In contrast, my dissertation proposes to take into account the epistemic practices of hacking and making to trace the tangible connections between the communities. In order to do so, the concept of epistemic cultures (Knorr Cetina 2002; 2001) is used as an analytic framework and point of origin for further empirical research. Hacking and making are thus conceptualised as (epistemic) cultures, whose respective practices (Schatzki et al. 2001, Schmidt 2012) are the object of inquiry in order to detect continuities and differences. An ethnographic approach is used, framed by insights of STS (Star 2002; Latour 2006) and ethnomethodology (Garfinkel 2002; Livingston 2008), which allows to analyse and connect situated practices of technological acquisition.

Areas of Research

  • Ethnography
  • Ethnomethodology
  • Grounded Theory
  • Science and Technology Studies
  • Computer-assisted qualitative data analysis


Epistemische Aneignung alter Technologien in Hacking- und Making-Communities. Kongress der österreichischen Gesellschaft für Soziologie: Alles im Wandel? Dynamiken und Kontinuitäten moderner Gesellschaften. Sektionspanel Wissenschafts- und Techniksoziologie: Alte Technologien. Beständigkeit, Kontinuität und Wiederbelebung von gebrauchsfertigen Technologien in der Innovationsgesellschaft. Salzburg, 28. 9. 2019.

Hacking and Non-Use: Infrastructural Modifications and Epistemic Engagement. 4S 2019: Innovations, Interruptions, Regenerations. Society for Social Studies of Science Annual Meeting. Open Panel 009: Beyond Non-Use: Infrastructuralism and Interruption. New Orleans, Louisiana, 4.9.2019.

Hacking und epistemische Objekte (Datensitzung). Forschungswerkstatt der AG Qualitative Methoden, Arbeitsbereich 2 der Fakultät für Soziologie, Universität Bielefeld, 10.7.2019.

Mit Sabine Biedermann Camposano: Innovation by other means: repairing,
restoring, rewilding. Summer School "Innovation and its others:
Neglected aspects of creative destruction", 20.-21.6.2019, Technische
Universität Berlin.

Hacking and Making. Towards a Theory of Techno-Epistemic Practice.
Kolloquium der Sektion Sozialpsychologie und Sozialanthropologie, 1.2.2019, Ruhr Universität Bochum.

Klatschen mit Garfinkel (Datensitzung). Videoanalyse-Nachwuchsworkshop II: Die Videoanalyse(n) und ihre Gegenstände, Bielefeld, 27.7.2015.

Doing Algae Biotech (Vortrag). 5. Studentischer Soziologiekongress, Tübingen, 2.10.2015.

Enacting Garfinkel (Vortrag). 5. Studentischer Soziologiekongress, Tübingen, 2.10.2015.

„Einfach machen“. Methodologische Perspektiven zur ethnographischen Erforschung von Hackerspaces. (Vortrag). Workshop: „Gesellschaft digital denken? Sozialwissenschaftliche Überlegungen zu neuen Technologien und technologischen Sozialformen“. Universität Bielefeld, 15.12.2016.



Dahm, Sebastian (2017): „Just Do It!“. Considerations on the Acquisition of Hackerspace Field Skills as an Ethnomethodological Research Technique. In: Digital Culture & Society 3 (1), S. 109-124. DOI: https://doi.org/10.14361/dcs-2017-0107

Book Chapters:

Kirstie Ball, Sebastian Dahm, Michael Friedewald, Antonella Galetta, Kerstin Goos, Richard Jones, Erik Lastic, Clive Norris, Charles Raab, and Keith Spiller, "The cases: ANPR, credit scoring and Neighbourhood Watch", in Kirstie Ball, and William Webster (eds.), Surveillance and Democracy in Europe, Routledge, London and New York, 2019, pp. 30-50.

Kirstie Ball, Sebastian Dahm, Michael Friedewald, Antonella Galetta, Kerstin Goos, Richard Jones, Erik Lastic, Clive Norris, Charles Raab, and Keith Spiller, "Search and indignify: Automatic Number Plate Recognition in Europe", in Kirstie Ball, and William Webster (eds.), Surveillance and Democracy in Europe, Routledge, London and New York, 2019, pp. 51-68.



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