Making “World Machines”: Discourse, Design and Global Technologies for Greater-than-self Issues (August 2015)

Call for Participation

(Please see the draft description of the workshop themes here:

Tired of seeing sharing and caring monetized into apps and services? Tired of the limited visions for participation in much citizen science? Tired of feeling that technology can only worsen the problem, not offer creative solutions to resource management as well as citizen involvement for the benefit of the collective? Then come and experiment for the day at a workshop on ‘Making “World Machines”: Discourse, Design and Global Technologies for Greater-than-self Issues’ at the Aarhus Critical Alternatives conference, August 2015.

This one-day workshop introduces the concept of world machines—a new archetype for socio-technical systems, drawing together new computational powers with a social agenda of cross-world collaboration in resistance to dominant market rhetoric. Specifically, we consider opportunities to connect, sense and infer and apply these to crowd-sourcing public engagement with shared world issues.

World machines give people access to the means to sample, test and report on their circumstances and what they find (or can sense with tools), as well as to locate each other, analyze the meanings of the data and link up for action upon what is found. They offer potential to scale and map the local and global, with shared tools and outcomes. They rely on a range of motivations for use, but no intrusive incentives, such as many sharing economy initiatives use (eg Airbnb, Uber or Taskrabbit, which monetize help-giving) and they may also specifically embed a rhetoric of shared or greater-than-self issues.

We will use the idea of world machines to take a critical approach and examine ‘what is wrong with current social reality, identify the actors to change it, and provide both clear norms for criticism and achievable practical goals for social transformation’ (as Horkheimer defined Critical Theory) in the context of developing and deploying networked technology.

The day will combine theoretical aspects of world machines, such as considering what a political entity of this kind might seek to do, and practical exercises that focus on design and use, followed by a review of learning from our work, with a view to exploring viability and examining what a related research agenda might involve.

Relevant workshop topics

We would like to hear from those who are already constructing and maintaining world machines as well as those interested in their potential. Any empirical or discursive contribution, dealing with social, environmental, economic, cultural, spiritual, managerial or political aspects, will be relevant. People with backgrounds in HCI and Design may be joined by artists, technologists, political scientists and cultural theorists. Organisers’ interests include the work of Richard Buckminster Fuller, Brian Holmes, Jane Bennett, Félix Guattari and Maria Puig de la Bellacasa among others, and we would welcome further perspectives and reference points. In particular, we will be looking at ecological approaches in the broadest sense of design for linking up systems and inspiring awareness of our relations in the world.

What to do now?

Prospective participants should submit a position paper of up to 3 pages (using the SigCHI format here:, which focuses on theoretical or practical aspects (or both) and demonstrates a willingness to engage with both political discussion and hands-on making. Please send your papers to [].

Important dates

  • Call live: April 2nd
  • Position papers due: June 2nd
  • Results made known: June 8th
  • Camera ready papers for website: July 1st
  • Workshop: August 17th 2015, Aarhus


Ann Light, University of Sussex

Jeffrey Bardzell, Indiana University

Shaowen Bardzell, Indiana University

Geoff Cox, Aarhus University

Jonas Fritsch, IT University Copenhagen

Lone Koefoed Hansen, Aarhus University

Please contact us at [] if you have any questions about the workshop and/or to send your submissions.

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