Adhocism

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Description

By Austin Toombs, Shaowen Bardzell and Jeffrey Bardzell:

"Our interest in the concept of adhocism began as the result of our observations in the hackerspace, where maker activities could be characterized as informal and ad hoc. Rather than plan an entire project, they often relied on an assumption that they would be able to solve problems as they arose, and worked with more generalized guidelines informed by their experiences in the hackerspace. After many months of ethnographic work and the building of our emic understanding of the ad hoc activities in the space, we began to develop an etic understanding of adhocism, which we were then able to use as another lens for studying the tool making activities and behaviors of the makers.

Architectural theorist Charles Jencks and architect Nathan Silver (2013) define adhocism as “a principle of action having speed or economy and purpose or utility, and it prospers like most hybrids on the edge of respectability” (vii). Throughout their book, adhocism is presented simultaneously as a legitimate production strategy and as its own product style for finished products, be they architectural designs or NASA’s space equipment. As a production strategy, adhocism focuses on efficiency, economy, approximation, adaptability, and pragmatism, often drawing on “an available system in a new way to solve a problem quickly and efficiently” (Jencks & Silver 2013, vii). As a product style, adhocism visually foregrounds the juxtaposition of these available systems, making explicit their connections and differences while showcasing their hybridity. Our conception of adhocism for this study focuses primarily on the former characterization. It is also influenced by the work of Lucy Suchman (1987), enabling a consideration of the situatedness of the maker’s actions without necessarily labeling the adhocism we observe in those actions as intentional. The notion of adhocism as revealed in this hackerspace is closely associated with the maker’s judgment throughout the making process—the judgment required to choose appropriate tools or methods to complete the project, the judgment used to decide whether to purchase or make a required piece of the project, and the judgment used to determine if the maker has the required competencies to complete the project. An adhocist project is not planned out ahead of time, but carries the assumption that each piece of the problem will be figured out as it becomes important. There is an overall sense of the big picture of the project, but it is seldom expressed as more than just a sense. As we have seen throughout this study, the adhocist attitude common to many of the projects we investigated is more than simply an approach but is also an identity expression: “we work in this way because we can.” (http://peerproduction.net/issues/issue-5-shared-machine-shops/peer-reviewed-articles/becoming-makers-hackerspace-member-habits-values-and-identities/)