Openness and Conviviality in the WikiHouse Project
* Article: Assessing the Openness and Conviviality of Open Source Technology: The Case of the WikiHouse. by Christina Priavolou and Vasilis Niaros. Sustainability 2019, 11(17), 4746; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11174746
"The housing crisis has received growing interest from academia, industry, and policymakers. Open construction systems have emerged as a promising solution to achieve long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability. In this paper, extensive fieldwork was conducted to investigate a case of an open construction system, namely, the WikiHouse Den Bosch. The research framework builds on a combined view of two main concepts: “conviviality” and “openness”. The aim is to provide an in-depth understanding of the relationship between these two aspects and the literature regarding “Design Global Manufacture Local”. The analysis showed that conviviality and openness are complex and context-specific factors. The paper concludes by outlining the need for an “institutionalized conviviality” to open up new pathways for future practice to address sustainability issues."
"An instrumental case study was thoroughly examined to assess certain features of an open construction system, that of a WikiHouse. These features are associated with advantages that refer to the conviviality as well as the drawbacks that pertain to the openness degree of the WikiHouse technology. The latter has been claimed to inaugurate a model of open-source practice towards the democratization of the construction process.
In this article, the comprehensiveness of the published data and the relevant practices will be discussed for a specific WikiHouse technology. Through evidence-based analysis of the relevant dynamics, we will shed light on the conviviality and the openness potential of a WikiHouse. The aim is to critically assess the conviviality potential of a DGML artefact and examine the role of openness in enhancing DGML features. An in-depth understanding of the relationship between openness and conviviality as well as their interrelation with the DGML approach for producing technological solutions will be explored.
The rest of the paper is organized as follows.
- Section 2 describes the theoretical background associated with the DGML approach and the concepts of conviviality and openness.
- Section 3 provides information on the methods used and the selected case study, while
- Section 4 reflects on the previous sections by analyzing and summarizing the connection between the above-mentioned concepts, while
- Section 5 presents our conclusions and provides recommendations for future research."
Christina Priavolou and Vasilis Niaros, from the conclusions:
"Both conviviality and openness are ambiguous terms. Whether an artifact is convivial or open is not a binary decision. Instead, there is a spectrum and degree of each of these aspects that characterizes a technological artifact. For instance, defining conviviality and openness may be easier when engaging with software or low-tech products than high-tech hardware.
The WikiHouse Den Bosch is a sophisticated construction that consists of different parts and requires certain skills for its construction and maintenance. The conviviality potential of such a complex artifact ends up being subjective. Based on our results, it is evident that the level of the respondent’s expertise is crucial when assessing conviviality. The potential lack of certain skills needed to manufacture or maintain an artifact could lower the artifact’s conviviality. However, the existence of a community around that artifact could possibly alleviate this issue via the diffusion of knowledge amongst its members.
Furthermore, the available expertise of the contributors allows for enhanced autonomy in both the construction and maintenance stages. In this sense, conviviality is stronger at the collective level than at the individual one. Additionally, openness adds to the conviviality potential of the project, thus boosting the autonomy on all levels by providing access to relevant information.
The aforementioned potential is arguably linked to the attributes observed in the DGML approach. In an attempt to generalize the conviviality of DGML artifacts, we proposed achieving “institutionalized conviviality” through more structured processes. For instance, modularity can be considered as a characteristic that could reduce the complexity of artifacts. In addition, standardization of the design parts as well as the existence of detailed open-source documentation could facilitate the replicability of open hardware solutions through comprehensive manuals.
Overall, however, DGML artifacts may be quite varied in their conception and development, so the community aspect is crucial. Once there is an engaged community with a strong supporting network, the level of conviviality may be high, despite potential complexities that would otherwise hinder it. Nevertheless, given that such projects are driven by specific local or regional socio-economic and political characteristics and goals, the generalizability of our conclusions is confined. Hence, further research should focus on different contexts, locations, and artifacts to provide a wider understanding of the understudy phenomenon. Finally, a comparison of an industrially produced house and an open construction system through technical evaluations such as the life cycle assessment would be valuable."