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Working In-between: Towards a Non-deterministic Understanding of Politically Engaged Design

March 21, 2018 - Reading time: ~1 minute

Andreas Unteidig, Berlin University of the Arts, gave a talk at the Swiss Design Network Research Summit in March 2018.

This talk reflected on a collaborative design process within MAZI, an interdisciplinary and EU-funded research project, oscillating between entities such as design, activism, and technology. This process was contextualised in a broader perspective about roles designers claim or take on, while their field is increasingly being framed and understood politically. Based on reflections-in-practice, this talk discussed insights that emerge vis-à-vis the larger issues presented, and provided an outlook on future work.

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DataFest18: Program Or Be Programmed: The implications of small data, local context and “Do-It-Yourself” technologies.

March 21, 2018 - Reading time: 4 minutes

MAZI Hackathon at DataFest18, Edinburgh, UK.

Monday March 19th 2018.

Program Or Be Programmed: The implications of small data, local context and “Do-It-Yourself” technologies.

The Hackathon event saw participants take part in hands-on practical activities and learn about current case studies, including examples from the MAZI project from Deptford, Berlin, Zurich and Greece.


“In a digital age, we must learn how to make the software, or risk becoming the software. It is not too difficult or too late to learn the code behind the things we use—or at least to understand that there is code behind their interfaces. Otherwise, we are at the mercy of those who do the programming, the people paying them, or even the technology itself.”  ‘Program or be Programmed’ (Rushkoff, 2010)

As Big Data is becoming the standard raw material for creating technological products and services, participants in these two linked events will revisit Small Data, and discuss its potential uses and the implications for technologists, designers and end users. Questions raised during the hackathon and symposium will address topics around; the relationships between citizen generated data and design innovation, the open data movement and the sharing economy, and mechanisms or toolkits to support new models of creativity. The advantages of small data, according to Rob Kitchin (2014), include its focus on specific cases and its ability to tell individual, nuanced and contextual stories. As Kitchin says; “… if big data is an unmanageable deluge, then small data can be oases of data within a data desert”.

Presented by the EU H2020 funded MAZI project (Developing a DIY networking toolkit for location-based collective awareness), the event presented an alternative view on data technology, focusing on “small” data, citizen empowerment and grassroots action. The MAZI project is a three year project investigating the uses of low-cost community WiFi networks and the software services that can be built with them. MAZI is working on four pilot studies, in Berlin, debating rights to the city; in London, helping marginalised communities find a voice when faced with gentrification; in Zurich, encouraging democratic participation; and in Greece, exploring how artists can help local communities reflect on their situation.

The event was organised by Ingi Helgason and Michael Smyth at Edinburgh Napier University, and the day was run by:

James Stevens of SPC, Deptford, London

Mark Gaved of the Open University

Katalin Hausel of unMonastery.

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MAZI at FOSDEM 2018: Urban places as nodes of a decentralized Internet

February 8, 2018 - Reading time: 2 minutes

Panayotis Antoniadis of the MAZI project gave a talk at a major event for software developers to meet, share ideas and collaborate in February 2018. Every year, thousands of developers of free and open source software from all over the world gather at the FOSDEM event in Brussels.

Talk details: Urban places as nodes of a decentralized Internet. The MAZI toolkit and the platform

The MAZI toolkit,, is a DIY networking toolkit for installing, customizing, and deploying self-hosted applications on a Raspberry Pi as local web server (in a sense, a YunoHost focusing on small-scale community networks and a PirateBox opening up to self-hosted applications) that can help to create a wide variety of local networks effectively and democratically designed and governed by local communities. Such a tool can bring closer together self-hosted software and community networks, making both more accessible to a wider audience. Openki,, is a FLOSS platform for self-organized education that facilitates the creation of collaborative learning groups in the city. In this talk I will explain how these two can be combined to help build a decentralized Internet anchored in urban spaces and facilitate learning and trust building processes that are necessary for privacy, among others.

  • Presentation of the MAZI toolkit, including demo
  • Presentation of, including demo
  • Discussion on how they can be combined toward a more decentralized and privacy respecting Internet

Event details including video recording:

A related high-level talk is available online here:


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Conceptualizing and Designing with Liberating Voices

February 6, 2018 - Reading time: 5 minutes

Patterns Workshop with Doug Schuler

We were lucky to have MAZI Advisory Board member Doug Schuler pass by The Open University last week, and he kindly agreed to run a workshop introducing his ‘Liberating Voices’ Patterns language and engagment tool. Video of event

Doug has long been interested in how communities can work together to overcome local challenges, the concept of ‘civic intelligence’ and what tools people can use to discuss and respond to challenges.

Drawing inspiration from Alexander’s book proposing a pattern language for architecture, urban design, and community livability, Doug brought together a number of writers, activists and academics, and created the 2008 book ‘Liberating Voices: A Pattern Language for Communication Revolution’ ( and explored suitable ‘patterns’ – ideas, ways of working and mechanisms that can be used to discuss and investigate community challenges. When a selection is put together, you might devise an approach with various aspects, a ‘language’ for addressing the challenges.

The book contains 136 patterns which were written by 75 people from around the world. Each pattern presents a conceptual seed that can be used a multitude of different ways by different people in different contexts for different reasons. Patterns can provide new ways of perceiving challenges and opportunities.

Doug has generated a card pack from the book, and these are designed to be used in a workshop, with people gathered around shared challenges. Cards are debated, selected, and combined to help offer insight into ways in which a challenge might be approached.

In the workshop, Doug introduced his own background in computing and community based research, talked about Alexander’s work and how this had led to his own pattern language.  We then broke into groups, and shared out cards to think how we might address our challenges. My group was exploring how the Open University might bring together geographically separated students into the sense of being a shared community of practice; a second group were looking for ways of involving a wide range of stakeholders in a sub-Saharan agricultural project seeking to optimise water usage; and the final group explored home schooling in the UK.

Doug got us to share the cards between the group members, and individually reducing our pile (of about 40) to 3. Much deliberation and agonising happened and we all ended up with half a dozen, which we then talked through with our colleagues to reduce again. Doug was interested to see if we could reduce to three in total, our group ended up with a central card surrounding by a clock of about ten others! These divided approximately into philosophical reflections, practical mechanisms that might be used, and goals we were trying to achieve.

The cards have a single side of description, which leads to individual reflection and then group debate about their meaning and how they are applied by different people from different domains. Overall, the process then is one of reflection and discussion, with the cards acting as boundary objects to instigate debate. I found this a really interesting process: more structured than giving people  blank flip charts and asking them to discuss topics, yet open enough that there was plenty of room for conversation and interpretation.

This fits nicely into the emerging MAZI focus on the ‘pre-tech’ aspect of engaging communities with DIY networking: gathering where we are keen to elicit challenges, tensions, and goals; and to help people move to articulating what approaches might be tried.

Doug’s used these all over the world. The patterns are available at There are also complete sets of the cards available in Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, and Vietnamese and other translations are in work. Card sets are available from the author or online. They are licensed for free use.

Other people have also thought of patterns that might be relevant to MAZI: the EU DiDIY project considering policy patterns for Digital Do It Yourself, and there was a talk at Chaos Communication Congress (2007) that turned into a wiki on how patterns might be applied to help the successful setting up and running of hackspaces.

From Mark Gaved’s blog. Feb 5th 2018

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Conceptualizing and Designing with Liberating Voices Patterns

January 1, 2018 - Reading time: 3 minutes

Conceptualizing and Designing with Liberating Voices Patterns
Friday 02/02/ 2018, 10.30 – 12.30 AM

Open University, Milton Keynes
MK12 5AE
KMI Podium

This workshop will introduce you to a method for engaging community partners (academics, activists, local people) in discussion, to help identify ways of working together to solve a community challenge, develop concepts, and work together on a shared project.

The workshop will be convened by Doug Schuler from the MAZI project advisory board, and is based on his 2008 book, Liberating Voices: A Pattern Language for Communication Revolution ( The book contains 136 “patterns” which were written by 75 people from around the world. Each pattern presents a conceptual seed that can be used a multitude of different ways by different people in different contexts for different reasons. Patterns can provide new ways of perceiving challenges and opportunities.

The goal is to work together in groups to help develop concepts / projects / campaigns etc. for moving forward. Ideally several members of an existing, planned, or imagined project would work on the same group but it’s perfectly OK for people who are not working together on a project to participate in the workshop.

The patterns are available at There are short versions of the patterns on physical cards, which is what we use in the workshop — one example is shown below. There are also complete sets of the cards available in Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, and Vietnamese and other translations are in work. Card sets are available from the author or online. They are licensed for free use.

Email to book your place (20 places maximum) –

Workshop Plan
30 minutes — Introduction to the theory and practice of patterns and pattern languages
60 minutes — Work in groups designing something using the patterns
30 minutes — Debrief results and ideas for future work

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MAZI at the 4th INSCI Conference, Thessaloniki, Greece

December 21, 2017 - Reading time: 2 minutes

The MAZI project participated in the 4th INSCI Conference with an exhibition booth, in Thessaloniki, Greece, in 22-24 November 2017. The international conference on Internet Science focuses on the contribution and role of Internet science on the current and future multidisciplinary understanding of societies transformations, governance shifts and innovation quests.

Its main objective is to allow an open and productive dialogue between all the disciplines which study the Internet as a socio-technical system under any technological or humanistic perspectives. Several workshops on Data Economy and Digital Social Innovation were accommodated at the conference.

In the MAZI exhibition booth, attendees had the opportunity to find out more about the MAZI project, its current activities and its future plans. In addition, they had the opportunity to take a look at the recently released v2.1 of the toolkit. The attendees browsed in the applications of the toolkit such as the Guestbook,  uploading photos and comments and the Framadate, voting the best demo of the Conference. The statistical data of the Applications as well as the System data were transferred with the new functionality of the Admin “Monitoring” to a remote database.


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