'Technology is not neutral.'
Waag was founded in 1994 by Marleen Stikker and Caroline Nevejan. Waag’s roots are in the hacker movement. Its precedent was ‘De Digitale Stad’ (the digital city), one of world’s first open gateways to the world wide web, making Stikker one of the founding fathers of public internet. At that time, it was generally believed that the internet would grow into an open, fair and inclusive space for everyone. In her book ‘Het internet is stuk (maar we kunnen het repareren)' (The internet is broken, but we can fix it), Marleen Stikker describes how and why the internet turned out to be so different from our initial expectations.
At Waag, we know our futures are already here. We are living in an age of rapid technological development, planetary uncertainty and societal fracture. Waag believes another world is possible: a world that is led by the values of fairness, openness and inclusivity. Waag strives to empower citizens to work together on making practical change in the present, in order to realise that world today, for the sake of the future.
'Waag believes another world is possible: a world that is led by the values of fairness, openness and inclusivity.'
Waag pleads for a radically different approach towards technology. After all, technology is not neutral. Oftentimes, we look at technology as if it is a holy grail, and as if it’s a black box, that produces results that remain unbiased. We accept the power of big tech platforms, without taking into account the disruption this causes for our societies, politics and personal lives. Waag stands for digital sovereignty: to have control and ownership over your own data and behaviour on the internet. Not commercial, but public values and interests should be at the core of our design and use of technology.
This different approach of technology is at the core of Waag. She takes technologies, puts them down on the table, unscrews them and researches what is going on under the hood. She questions new technologies and technological design processes. By knowing what is going on inside of a technological object, by opening the black box, Waag is working towards a more open, fair and inclusive society.
Waag is a middle-ground organisation, identifying with international citizen-based movements that know that another world is possible. She views technology as an instrument for social change. On local, national and global levels, Waag collaborates with citizens, organisations, governments, artists, activists, designers and researchers in projects that effectuate change.
Working on practical solutions in the now, in order to create a different world in the future: this makes Waag an unusual, flexible community of passionate and engaged activists, researchers, educators, communicators, technologists, artists, designers and administrators. Her work areas stretch from governments to classes, from local neighbourhoods to planet B, connecting themes such as ecology, heritage, education, textiles, biotechnology, healthcare, democratisation, public values and the international maker movement.
'Waag is working on practical solutions in the now, in order to create a different world in the future.'
Waag’s work is subdivided into labs, all focusing on specific themes. Each lab usually works on multiple projects at once, while collaborating with a wide variety of partners, both through European cooperation and on the local and national level. Research, findings, results, considerations and lines of thinking are shared broadly and open source through Waag’s publications, public programme, workshops and academies. Every six months, she starts a new expedition towards the future, focused on a central theme.
The work of Waag is hybrid. While exploring the territories of this other world she thinks is possible, she seeks to remember what we have forgotten, and to understand what we need to know, to have and to do, in order to create this other world. Her work is supported by pillars that give direction and meaning to Waag’s work methods.
Public research describes the way in which Waag carries out her research activities. Society is the central focus of public research, and citizens’ environments its starting point. This means every citizen is a potential researcher: Waag directly involves citizens into the research that has value for their lives. This way, citizens are part of design processes that matter to them. Public research is aimed at the democratisation of knowledge, and thereby distinguishes itself from academic or commercially driven research.
'Citizens become part of design processes that impact their own lives.'
Smart citizens are people who are winning back their sovereignty on the smart city. We appropriate the technology of the internet of things and use it to map our environments. Based on low-cost open source sensor technology, and data interpretation workshops, Waag is strengthening the information position of citizens, empowering them in conversations with governments and large companies.
Art-science mixes art with science: in this interdisciplinary approach, collaborations between scientists and artists are facilitated and strengthened. Both the arts and science allow us to shape our understanding of the world we live in. When they come together, new insights and approaches emerge. In various projects, including ones in the areas of ecology and biotechnology, Waag is working together with artists, and offers residencies and research fellowships to emerging artists and designers.
Critical making traces back to Waag’s roots in the hacker movement. Learning by doing is essential to be able to critically reflect on the role of technology in society. Open source development, digital fabrication, material research and the research of historical making and production processes are central to the work of Waag. We are part of the international maker movement, consisting of makers worldwide, who share the belief that we can make (almost) everything with digital fabrication and can contribute to positive social change. Waag offers maker education to people of all ages.
'Waag is part of the international maker movement, consisting of makers worldwide, who share the belief that we can make (almost) everything with digital fabrication and can contribute to positive social change.'
Co-creation is a design method aimed at placing all stakeholders in a societal problem in the same room. Together, they solve a problem stretching across multiple areas such as healthcare, democratisation or energy. All relevant knowledge and experience is used, and everyone is equally involved in the process. By using creative working exercises, innovative insights and shared values are gained.
Commoning embodies the communal management of resources, by a community, based on shared values. Commoning adds value for the community and society by connecting both economic and cultural practices. It encourages bottom-up initiatives and it increases the self-determination of communities.
Waag is a Dutch foundation, managed according to the Dutch Supervisory Board model. The managing director is founder Marleen Stikker. The Supervisory Board consists of:
- Liesbet van Zoonen - Chair
- Hans Rob de Reus - Treasurer
- Pauline Westendorp - Member
- Haydee Sheombar - Member