Maja van der Velden|Publications


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Between needs and desire: Exploring strategies for gendering design (2011)
Article [pdf]
Abstract: Script analysis is often used in research that focuses on gender and technology design. It is applied as a method to describe problematic inscriptions of gender in technology and as a tool for advancing more acceptable inscriptions of gender in technology. These analyses are based on the assumption that we can design technologies that do justice to gender. One critique on script analysis is that it does not engage with the emergent effects of design. The authors explore this critique with the help of two vignettes taken from their design research. In this article they ask: How to design for gender if gender and design are emergent? The authors pres- ent two design strategies, degendering design and undesigning design and propose a new approach to doing justice to gender in design. This perspective foregrounds ethics in the design process, in particular the accountability of technology designers.
Science Technology & Human Values published online 13 March 2011

When knowledges meet: Wikipedia and other stories from the contact zone (2011)
Chapter [pdf]
From the Introduction: In this article I will explore the management of knowledge in five different stories about ordering knowledge. As an introduction I will present three stories in which I explore the idea that ordering, any type of ordering, affects how we understand knowledge; who can be a knower; what can be known; and who will benefit from knowledge. I am particularly interested in the materialisation of knowledge and knowers in the systems and practices that order knowledge.
Chapter in: Critical Point of View, a reader in Wikipedia Studies. Centre for Internet and Society (Bangalore, India) and the Institute of Network Cultures (Amsterdam, Netherlands). The complete Reader is available here.

Design for the contact zone: Knowledge management software and the structures of indigenous knowledges (2010)
Paper [pdf]
Abstract: This article examines the design of digital indigenous knowledge archives. In a discussion of the distinction between indigenous knowledge and western science, a decentred perspective is developed, in which the relationship between different local knowledges is explored. The particular characteristics of indigenous knowledges raise questions about if and how these knowledges can be managed. The role of technology in managing indigenous knowledges is explored with examples from fieldwork in India and Kenya and from web-based databases and digital archives. The concept of contact zone is introduced to explore the space in which different knowledges meet and are performed, such as indigenous knowledge and the technoscientific knowledge of the database. Design for the contact zone, this article proposes, is an intra-active and adaptive process for
creating databases that are meaningful for indigenous knowers. The meta-design approach is introduced as a methodology, which may provide indigenous knowers tools for self-representation and self-organisation through design.
In: F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec, and Ess, C.(eds): 2010, Cultural Attitudes Towards technology and Communication 2010, Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Cultural Attitudes Towards Technology and Communication, Vancouver, Canada. Murdoch University, Murdoch (Australia).

Undesigning culture: A brief reflection on design as ethical practice (2010)
Paper [pdf]
Abstract: This essay furthers the understanding of design as ethical practice. Based on a perspective on the relationship between humans and technology as a material-discursive practice, an argument is developed in which the meaning and matter of a technology is not perceived as the effect of use only. Matter and meaning emerge in each iteration in the design process of a technology. A design strategy is presented in which ethics becomes an integral part of the design process.
In: F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec, and Ess, C.(eds): 2010, Cultural Attitudes Towards technology and Communication 2010, Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Cultural Attitudes Towards Technology and Communication, Vancouver, Canada. Murdoch University, Murdoch (Australia).

Entangled matter: Thinking differently about materials in design (2009)
by Maja van der Velden, Tone Bratteteig, and Sisse Finken.
Paper [pdf]
Abstract: What role do materials play in the communication of information in a public space? In this paper we look at a metro station in Oslo and focus on how and where messages, such as posters, graffiti, and commercial advertisements, are connected to the station’s surfaces. How to understand this relationship between materials, surfaces, and messages? In a discussion of representational and ecological perspectives on the properties of materials, we propose to understand the station as a zone of entanglement. This enables us to see how the realities of the station, including the properties of its materials, are constantly produced in the practices of the people who use the station. This understanding of materials presents design not only as a non-deterministic practice, but challenges us to design for not yet known uses. Making future uses possible, should be based on ongoing engaged and entangled design practices today.
In Nordes'09: Engaging Artifacts, The Oslo School of Architecture and Design

Autonomy and Automation in an Information Society for All (2009)
by Maja van der Velden, Tone Bratteteig, Sisse Finken, Christina Mörtberg.
Paper [pdf]
Abstract. A key challenge in an inclusive Information Society is to understand the relationship between autonomy and automation: Does the automatic system increase human dependency on technology and decrease human autonomy or does it strengthen human agency and human autonomy? Such an approach assumes that an equilibrium or balance between autonomy and automation can be found. We explore this issue in three vignettes on the use of digital technologies in public sector service delivery and discuss how the focus on finding equilibrium may conceal the complex and multiple interactions between autonomy and automation. We identify two challenges that influence our thinking about autonomy and automation: the need to go beyond technological instrumentalism and the need to rethink human autonomy. Lastly, we present our relational perspective on autonomy, autonomy-in-relation. Human autonomy, we conclude, is enacted in different configurations of people and things.
In IRIS 32: Information Systems Research Seminar in Scandinavia

Design for a Common World: On ethical agency and cognitive justice (2008)
Pre-print paper [pdf]
Abstract: The paper discusses two answers to the question, How to address the harmful effects of technology? The first response proposes a complete separation of science from culture, religion, and ethics. The second response finds harm in the logic and method of science itself. The paper deploys a feminist technoscience approach to overcome these accounts of neutral or deterministic technological agency. In this technoscience perspective, agency is not an attribute of autonomous human users alone but enacted and performed in socio-material configurations of people and technology and their ‘intra-actions’. This understanding of agency is proposed as an alternative that opens up for the reconfiguration of design and use for more ethical effects, such as the cultivation of cognitive justice, the equal treatment and representation of different ways of knowing the world. The implication of this approach is that design becomes an adaptive and ongoing intra-active process in which more desirable configurations of people and technology become possible.
In: Ethics and Information Technology, Vol. 11 , N. 1 (March 2009), Pages: 37 - 47

What's Love Got To Do With IT? On ethics and accountability in telling technology stories (2008)
Paper [pdf]
Abstract: Can stories about technology be told as ‘love’ stories? With the help of ‘Zimbabwe Bush Pump’, ‘Microsoft the Monster’, and the ‘Beautiful Palimpsest’, this paper contemplates the ethics of telling technology stories. Storytellers often take either a neutral or a critical position in their stories about technology. This paper discusses how ‘love’ can be a different way of talking about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ technology and asks how we can establish accountable relationships with technology. In a discussion of the work of philosopher Emmanuel Levinas and feminist technoscientists Donna Haraway and Karen Barad, the author discusses how we become ethical subjects in the way we tell our stories. Objectivity is, from this perspective, not about denying our relationship with technology, but about making our partial connections clear. Reflecting on research on global knowledge sharing, the paper argues that there are no innocent positions from which we can choose our epistemological and ontological perspectives. The use of figurations is explored to help tell the entangled story of the Open Knowledge Network’s technology. Palimpsest art is presented as a figuration to map contested knowledges.
In: F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec, and Ess, C.(eds): 2008, Cultural Attitudes Towards technology and Communication 2008, Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Cultural Attitudes Towards technology and Communication, Nîmes, France, 24 - 27 June, 2006. Murdoch University, Murdoch (Australia).

Situated Classification Work on the Web (2008)
Abstract: This paper addresses the classification of development knowledge in web-based resources. Seven categories of a marginalised knowledge domain are mapped across eleven web resources, with additional observations of classification work in India and Kenya. The analysis discusses how technological designs for web-based classification systems can become global hegemonic structures that may limit the participation of marginalised knowledge communities. The question of a more inclusive design is further explored in two offline, indigenous approaches to classifications. They suggest that a combination of both online and offline classification work, in which localised classifications are created, using local categories and tags, may enhance the participation of marginalised communities. The results of this research point to the need to design web-based resources that support the participation of diverse knowledge communities as well as the generation and representation of the diversity of knowledge. Future research may focus on the use of tags and the visualisation of the diverse ways in which an item can be categorised, in order to make web-based classifications more meaningful to marginalised knowledge communities.
In: Webology, 5(3), Article 60. Available at:

Invisibility and the Ethics of Digitalisation: Designing so as not to Hurt Others (2007)
Pre-print chapter [pdf]
Abstract: The diversity of knowledge is crucial for finding credible and sustainable alternatives for living together. Yet, a preoccupation with content and connectivity obscures the role of information technology in making invisible different ways of knowing and other logics and experiences. How to deal with diversity and difference in information technology? In this paper two cases are explored in which dealing with difference is a particular political and ethical concern. The designs of Indymedia, an Internet-based alternative media network, and TAMI, an Aboriginal database, are informed by the confrontations over different ways of knowing. They translate difference without sacrificing diversity, providing clues for building credible and sustainable design alternatives that will not hurt others.
In: Hongladarom, Soraj and Charless Ess (eds.), Information Technology Ethics: Cultural Perspectives, Idea Group Reference, London.

A License to Know: Regulatory Tactics of a Global Network (May, 2006)
Published paper [pdf]
Abstract: The sharing of open content using free peer-to-peer technology is a challenge in a world dominated by intellectual property laws and high profile court cases against people and organisations accused of illicit file-sharing. From a legal perspective this challenge seems insurmountable for a global network that seeks to enable the sharing of local knowledge for local development. Feenberg's work on the democratisation of technology and Lessig's work on architecture as a regulatory modality helps to understand the role of technology in both constraining and protecting knowledge sharing. This paper describes how technology and techno-legal instruments such as software and content licenses can become tactical interventions in the regulation of knowledge sharing.
In: F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec, and Ess, C.(eds): 2006, Cultural Attitudes Towards technology and Communication 2006, Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Cultural Attitudes Towards technology and Communication, Tartu, Estonia, 28 June - 1 July, 2006. Murdoch University, Murdoch (Australia).

A case for cognitive justice (March, 2006)
Unpublished paper [pdf]
Abstract: An attempt to respond to the following problems: "My problem is, how do I take the best of Indian civilization and at the same time keep my modern, democratic imagination alive?" - Shiv Visvanathan (2000)
"[M]y problem, and 'our' problem, is how to have simultaneously an account of radical historical contingency for all knowledge claims and knowing subjects, a critical practice for recognizing our own “semiotic technologies” for making meanings, and a no-nonsense commitment to faithful accounts of a 'real' world, one that can be partially shared and that is friendly to earthwide projects of finite freedom, adequate material abundance, modest meaning in suffering, and limited happiness." - Donna Haraway (1995)

Arab development and the politics of knowledge: What role for ICT? (Draft, Sept. 2004)
Introduction [html] | Unpublished paper [pdf]
Abstract: This paper seeks to interrogate the concept of knowledge inherent in the 2003 Arab Human Development Report: Building a Knowledge Society. It argues that the Report's "Arab knowledge model" is based on the understanding of knowledge as a commodity, thus disregarding the diversity of knowledge found in the Arab region. An investigation of the proposed role of information and communication technologies in the Report indicates that, because ICT is biased towards the transfer of commodified knowledge and not the cultivation of the diversity of indigenous cultures and traditions, ICT may intensify this neglect to the point of epistemic violence. The suppression of cognitive justice may eventually lead to the failure in building just and prosperous Arab societies.
Paper presented at "Education, Diversity, and Development", the annual conference of Norwegian Development Research Association (NFU) - Bergen, 31 sept. - 1 Oct. 2004.

Programming for Cognitive Justice: Towards an ethical framework for democratic code (2005)
Introduction [html] | Full paper [pdf]
Abstract: This paper contrasts two approaches to knowledge sharing for socio-economic development to examine how assumptions about knowledge are reflected in computer-based information systems. The paper argues that socio-technical systems for global knowledge sharing posses a bias resulting from choices about technology and from assumptions about knowledge, and that this bias may adversely affects the diversity of knowledge. To overcome this bias, the concept of cognitive justice is proposed and, on this basis, a framework suggested to guide the design of information systems based on a principle of the equal validity of all knowledges.
In: Interacting with Computers 17 (2005) 105-120, a special issue on Designing for Civil Society.

Cultivating Knowledge Diversity: Reflections on cognitive justice, ICT and development (2004)
Introduction [html] | Full paper [pdf]
The unique capabilities of the Internet seem to offer new ways to solve problems and make decisions. But this approach presents the Internet as a neutral technology, 'empty' of any bias that shapes the ways it homogenises or diversifies. Yet the bias of the Internet is inscribed in its technology. Can a biased technology cultivate the diversity of our knowledge? This paper proposes cognitive justice as a framework to investigate issues of knowledge and diversity. The Open Knowledge Network is presented as an example of an alternative approach to ICT for social and economic development.
In: Ess, C. and F. Sudweeks (eds): 2004, Cultural Attitudes Towards technology and Communication 2002, Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Cultural Attitudes Towards technology and Communication, Karlstad, Sweden, 27 June - 1 July, 2004. Murdoch University, Murdoch (Australia).

A Just Information Society: Cognitive Justice and the WSIS (November 2003) [html]
Meet Christine and Azara. Their stories are about the destructive consequences of economic adjustment, but more so about how their understanding and knowledge about the causes for the situation they are in, is being marginalised by the dominant knowledge of their governments and the international development agencies. Will the WSIS be of any help? Will it affirm or clarify the rights of people as knowers and address ethical questions of inclusion, power and motivation?

Knowledge for Development: Bringing Light to Poverty's Dark Corners? (September 2003)
The World Bank's 1998/1999 World Development Report declared that knowledge is development. Joseph Stiglitz, at the time Chief Economist of the World Bank, characterised this as a paradigm shift and spoke about the need to actively intervene in the selection of development knowledge. Enter the Development Gateway: the Bank's web-based portal to secure the global dissemination of credible knowledge for development. This paper argues that the World Bank's understandings of knowledge and development are inscribed in the technology of the Development Gateway, obstructing the use of the technology in support of alternative understandings of knowledge and development, adversely affecting the validity and diversity of the knowledge needed for development, and accelerating the loss of knowledge. Through a brief discussion of the Open Knowledge Network ( I will describe an alternative approach to knowledge for development, based on concepts of cognitive justice, knowledge diversity and self-organisation.
Paper presented at the "Politics and Poverty Conference", the annual conference of Norwegian Development Research Association (NFU) - Oslo, 23-24 October 2003.

From Communities of Practices to Communities of Resistance (May 2003) [pdf]
The central role of knowledge in international development demands a critical stance of civil society and its organisations. The knowledge for development paradigm, with its dependence on knowledge management and ICTs, will result in the loss of knowledge if knowledge diversity does not become central to the current knowledge debate. Cognitive justice should become an explicit goal in the struggle for social justice and human rights. Civil society's knowledge activities should further the diversity of knowledge and self-organisation, based on the grounding of knowledge in knowers and their rights to decide how to archive, use and share their knowledge.
Published in Development (47)1 (March 2004)

The End of Diversity? Knowledge, ICTs and the Development Gateway (July 2002) [pdf]
An analysis of the World Bank's Knowledge-for-Development indicates that this new development paradigm may adversely affect the validity and diversity of the knowledge needed for equitable and sustainable development. The deployment of knowledge management and ICTs, most notably through the implementation of the Development Gateway, is based on a narrow understanding of knowledge, often indistinguishable from information, and on the separation of knowledge, people, and power. The proposed alternative requires appropriate communication systems, knowledge creation in the South, and the cultivation of knowledge diversity through a focus on the knowers, the people who hold, use and create knowledge.
In: Ess, C. and F. Sudweeks (eds): 2002, Cultural Attitudes Towards technology and Communication 2002, Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Cultural Attitudes Towards technology and Communication, Montreal, Canada, 12-15 July, 2002. Murdoch University, Murdoch (Australia)

Knowledge Facts, Knowledge Fiction: The Role of ICTs in Knowledge Management for Development (September 2001) [pdf]
What happens when corporate knowledge management monoculture meets the diverse international development sector? This paper finds that development agencies have too readily adopted approaches from the Northern corporate sector that are inappropriate to development needs. These approaches treat knowledge as a rootless commodity, and information and communications technology as a key knowledge tool. Alternative approaches are required, that focus on the knower and on the context for creating and sharing knowledge. ICT tools need to support this approach, helping people develop appropriate or alternative scenarios and improving the accessibility of information and knowledge for people with different cultural, social, or educational backgrounds. Copyrights © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
In: Journal of International Development, 14, 25-37 (2002).

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Mieke's verjaardag
Programming for Cognitive Justice
The importance of cognitive justice for the design and development of information systems is that it provides a framework that challenges the assumed neutrality of the technology and the technology designer. With cognitive justice there is no objective ‘expert’ position from which to design and develop technology. Cognitive justice focuses information systems design on the knowers and the environments in which their knowledge is situated. As a result, the design process itself becomes a dialogue of diverse interests and values. The importance of this dialogue is that it takes place during the design of the "technical arrangements that precede the use of the technology in question”.
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"Some Rights Reserved": Building a Layer of Reasonable Copyright

Too often the debate over creative control tends to the extremes. At one pole is a vision of total control - a world in which every last use of a work is regulated and in which "all rights reserved" (and then some) is the norm. At the other end is a vision of anarchy - a world in which creators enjoy a wide range of freedom but are left vulnerable to exploitation. Balance, compromise, and moderation - once the driving forces of a copyright system that valued innovation and protection equally - have become endangered species.
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