Walking around Brown's campus, one can find dozens of interesting architectural anomalies that deserve exploration. From the strange green spaces the surround Grad Center to the boxed in areas that have little to little functionality, these spaces have been dormant for years. For many, especially during finals and mid-terms one of these spaces are the series of closed in atriums visible from the bottom floor of the Science Library. These four atriums are seen by hundreds of students every day, but are completely inaccessible and look the same everyday. Countless students find themselves staring at the empty box, wondering what it's for or why it exists with little utilization. Officially recognized as the Ernest D. Costa Memorial Gardens, this was the site that we chose to situate our "hack." For our group, we were interested in the relationship between the virtualized commons that open source so frequently discusses to the physical commons. This relationship still seems somewhat important as many legal scholars such as James Doyle, Marcus Boon, and Yochai Benkler have all based fundamental claims about open source on an understanding of the public physical commons.
Another important idea of the project is the role of re-imagining space as a creative production. Imagination as a social practice is something that wasn't articulated clearly within open source culture, but an important and compelling element to the peer-based commons. Importantly, we found that the ability to imagine things differently to be a site of possibility and that fundamentally embodied the DIY nature of open source.
Although many students prefer to use the Main Green as their canvas or site of intervention because of its accessibility and open nature, we instead decided to play off of the accessibility of the commons and the way that such spaces are used. For our location hack, as we initially termed it, it became important to find a space that was visually very present but somewhat inaccessible and underutilized. Thinking through many of the threads explored throughout the course, the issue of creative peer production was a space less explored. Moving away from some of the emphasis on utility and efficiency, features that come to define the benefits of peer production, we were more interested in the role of peer production in creative areas. Rather, we asked, "What would it mean to approach the re-imagining of space as a peer production?"
To "hack" this unused space, we decided to design two large mobiles to stretch across two respective mini quads. All of the materials were acquired through minimal spending through using found materials, visiting a recycling center, and a trip to Home Depot for hanging materials such as wire and fishing line. The use of found materials was important for the project because our ultimate goal was to show the accessibility, not only of space as a site for imagination, but also the accessibility of the means to produce something of the scale with relatively little cost. The DIY mentality of open source culture is something we wanted to embrace, and by making a tumblr, we are allowing people to see our process and inviting them to create and share their own.
In order to open up a space for re-imagining spaces around campus we distributed a number of maps around the SciLi designating other underutilized spaces on campus as sites for possible hacks (pictured below).
We then set up a Tumblr, where we displayed the installations and made transparent what we used and how much it cost. As mentioned earlier, expressing the accessibility and affordability of the supplies as well as the use of found materials, two facets of the DIY approach, we hoped that others would find similar solutions.
The tumblr not only explains the steps of the installation, but also how one can do it themselves.