Lilly Irani. Hackathons and the Making of Entrepreneurial Citizenship

Monday, October 5, 2015 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm
Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall


Hackathons and the Making of Entrepreneurial Citizenship

This talk focuses on how valorized forms of work become models of citizenship. Today, the halls of TED and Davos reverberate with optimism that hacking, brainstorming, and crowdsourcing can transform citizenship, development, and education alike. I will examine these claims ethnographically and historically with an eye towards the kinds of social orders these practices rely on and produce. I focuses on a hackathon, one emblematic site of social practice where techniques and work processes from information technology production become ways of remaking culture. Hackathons sometimes produce technologies; they always, however, produce subjects. This paper argues that the hackathon rehearses an entrepreneurial citizenship celebrated in transnational cultures that orient towards Silicon Valley for models of social change. Such optimistic, high-velocity practice aligns, in India, with middle-class politics that favor quick and forceful action with socially similar collaborators over the contestations of mass democracy or the slow construction of coalition across difference.

Lilly Irani is an Assistant Professor of Communication & Science Studies at University of California, San Diego. Her work examines and intervenes in the cultural politics of high tech work. She is a co-founder and maintainer of digital labor activism tool Turkopticon. She is currently writing a book on cultural politics of innovation and development in transnational India. She has published her work at New Media & Society, South Atlantic Quarterly, and Science, Technology & Human Values, as well as at SIGCHI and CSCW. Her work has also been covered in The Nation, The Huffington Post, and NPR. Previously, she spent four years as a User Experience Designer at Google. She has a B.S. and M.S. in Computer Science, both from Stanford University and a PhD from UC Irvine in Informatics.