Abstract: "Today the halls of Technology, Entertainment, and Design (TED) and Davos reverberate with optimism that hacking, brainstorming, and crowdsourcing can transform citizenship, development, and education alike. This article examines these claims ethnographically and historically with an eye toward the kinds of social orders such practices produce. This article focuses on a hackathon, one emblematic site of social practice where techniques from information technology (IT) production become ways of remaking culture. Hackathons sometimes produce technologies, and they always, however, produce subjects. This article argues that the hackathon rehearses an entrepreneurial citizenship celebrated in transnational cultures that orient toward Silicon Valley for models of social change. Such optimistic, highvelocity 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."
This 2015 article by Lilly Irani looks at the hackathon as an emblematic site of social practice where techniques of IT production become ways of remaking culture. She argues that the hackathon reherses an “entrepreneurial citizenship” that orients towards Silicon Valley for models of social change. She characterizes this as high-velocity (short-time lines) and optimistic and sees this as in line with middle-class politics that favor quick and forceful action with socially similar collaborators (rather than politics that require longer time scales and negotiated coalitions across difference). Irani draws on STS literature and development literature especially focused on IT in India. It is relevant for my own work not only for the helpful citations (there are a lot of parallels between IT in India and IT in Kenya) but also for its discussion of the hackathan and the particular citizen subject it prefers. The background section of the paper is directly helpful for a shorter-term project I am working on looking at the “professionalization” of the Nairobi tech sector through World Bank “capacity building projects” etc.