Boundary Work

hybrid fora

The concept of hybrid forums is closely linked to the theory of the third space by Homi K. Bhabha. In this theory, Bhabha designs the third space as a place of constant exchange and negotiation of cultural phenomena. Thus, the attempt to interpret cultural identity becomes an endless transformative process that leads to the dissolution of isolated, homogeneous cultural groups. Understood and established as a form of transcultural technology, hybrid forums can now also be found as generative interfaces between numerous disciplines, media, methods and approaches.

“[F]orums because they are open spaces where groups can come together to discuss technical options involving the collective, hybrid because the groups involved and the spokespersons claiming to represent them are heterogeneous, including experts, politicians, technicians, and laypersons who consider themselves involved. They are also hybrid because the questions and problems taken up are addressed at different levels in a variety of domains, from ethics to economic and including physiology, nuclear physics, and electromagnetism.”

Michel Callon, Pierre Lascoumes, and Yannick Barthe
Hybrid Forums, Chapter 1 in Acting in an uncertain world: An Essay on technical democracy, 2009

„Hybrid forums are a tool for balancing the knowledge and interests of different stakeholders, particularly when addressing a controversial subject. The design of the Hybird Forum carefully sets aside hierarchies so that ideas and controversies can be debated more openly and productively. The goal of a Hybrid Forum is to reach agreements on difficult subjects, by establishing shared responsibility for decisions and co-designing mutually agreeable outcomes.

The Hybrid Forum seeks to even out the asymmetries of power by equally valuing different forms of knowledge, perspectives and interests. Rather than smoothing over differences or seeking to eliminate them, the methodological challenge of the Hybrid Forum is use the existence of difference to spark the exchange of knowledge and collective decision-making.

Hybrid forums are spaces where the socio-technical controversies caused by specific overflows take the stage in a more or less institutional way, with the participation of the concerned stakeholders on the one hand and scientists and experts on the other. They are spaces that allow problems to emerge that experts do not see, to reconfigure problems that have already been identified and to create a world that is common to all participants, which must always be open to new explorations and learning processes. The hybrid forum is the creation (artificially, if you like) of relatively symmetrical conditions for dialogue, meaning that it is fundamental to destabilize the unquestionable everyday hierarchies for it to work.”

Rodrigo Araya Dujisin
HDL Helsinki Design Lab

The Ten Commandments of Hybrid Forums

(according to Helsinki Design Lab)

1. The one paying for the party does not choose the music
2. Dive into the controversy
3. The open house
4. The forum as a network: Composition and structure
5. Catharsis and overflows
6. Material dialogue
7. Sportsmanship and Ontological pluralism
8. Socio-technical craftmanship
9. Communication without complexes
10. The party, the hangover and starting over

Hybrid Forums as a method within a concept of dynamic governance
In addition to transdiciplinary projects and collaborations, Hybrid Forums can also be looked at a method of working together in general. The concept of Sociocracy as a way of dynamic governance seeks to organize any kind of gatherings with a shared focus under the ideal of equality and the rights of people to determine the conditions under which they live and work. This happens with no hierarchy and a decision-process of consent.
go to: Sociocracy

Examples of organisation that work with the concept of Sociocracy:
– Dezentrum – Think & Do Tank:
– Climatestrike Switzerland:

Hybrid Forums as moments of connection
During a moment of connection, individuality and shared focus meet. In transdisciplinary projects as in other collaborations, what happens before and after a meeting is usually shaped by a more individual perspective of the different participants. The moment of connection – e.g. a Hybrid Forum – can facilitate exchange and in the same time merge different aspects, views, ideas, goals into what may become a collaborative output. Identity as a group can be achieved. The concept of Rhizomes, adapted from biological into social contexts, offers a lot of links to thoughts of individuality, group-identity, the connections between them, interactions and influence through to questions about replication and development.
go to: Rhizom

Artist collective ‘Rhizom’:

Adaptions / applications of Hybrid Forums
Similar methods find their way into a variety of forms of collaboration. Especially, when the distribution of power among participants is not naturally equal or/and the group is quite large, these methods can be useful to reach a good quality of collaboration.

Examples (taken from comments below):
– Jugend MitWirkung:
– Grossgruppenmoderation:

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