On Cultivating the installable base
A conference paper for the 2022 Participatory Design Conference. In the paper, I draw from an experience of setting up a self-managed alternative computational infrastructure with a group of artists. I talk about the difficulty of moving from a mock-up to a prototype, which can happen in these projects. We managed to solve that issue by trying and using and tweaking off-the-shelf1 software as a form of prototyping. I also connect to earlier discourse within PD on the need to return to concrete technical contributions as one of PD’s outputs. Connecting those two, I argue that one of PD’s technical contributions can be to contribute to the quality of the installable base. As both a pun and serious concept, installable base refers to the existing body of installable software that needs to be good enough to try in these kinds of situations. This builds on Leigh-Star’s notion of the installed base, as the underlying machinery, practices, and context from which infrastructures can emerge. In essence, installable base is a way of thinking about the installed base as something that is open to shaping and designing.
You can find the whole paper here: https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3537797.3537875
While obvious, I didn’t use this terminology in the paper itself. I learned it through reading Off-the-shelf digital tools as a resource to nurture the commons by Mela Bettega, Raul Masu, Nicolai Brodersen Hansen and Maurizio Teli: https://doi.org/10.1145/3536169.3537787. A paper describing a closely related prototyping method using existing software. ↩︎