From simple customer to warm user; Or, who cares about the maintenance of community innovations?

  • Stefan Verhaegh University of Twente
Keywords: Community innovation, Wi-Fi, maintenance work, attachment to technology, warm expert, warm user

Abstract

This paper arises from ongoing research into user-initiated community innovation. Empirically, it builds on a case-study of the Dutch Wi-Fi infrastructure Wireless Leiden (WL), created in 2001 by local residents as a communicative assemblage of cheap consumer devices, home-built antennas and open source software (Author, Forthcoming). As the innovation is produced by a grassroots, bottom-up volunteer collective it is lacking financial resources for conventional repair and support services. This then raises the following question: how is support of users and maintenance of technology organized and arranged within community innovations? The argument developed, is that community innovation can only succeed by creating a socio-technical infrastructure of support, often but not exclusively, based on informal economies. Stabilization of community innovation can be understood as the successful mobilization of non-innovating end-users performing maintenance work. To ‘give voice’ to the often invisible work of end-users, I introduce the notion of warm user resembling the warm expert (Bakardjieva 2005). Whereas warm experts help inexperienced users to properly connect to network technologies, warm users help novel technologies to properly connect to user collectivities. I conclude with a reflection on the broader importance of maintenance work performed by warm users.
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