DRS workshop 2014

Designing commons – Commons for design, a workshop at DRS 2014
Date: 15th of June 2014
Place: Umeå University (Design Research Conference 2014)

This workshop on Designing commons –– Commons for design aims to explore what could professional designers and researchers, who operate in commons-like frameworks and aim to support collective action, learn from the current Commons discourse and research? The workshops aims to collaboratively develop a design research agenda to better understand the relationship between ““commoning practices”” and ““collaborative design practices””.

Background and Questions

Commons are often referred to as resources or resource systems that are shared and generated by a group of people that are at the same time vulnerable to social dilemmas and require that the community develops various mechanisms and rules to sustain them (Hess & Ostrom 2007). In many settings people are increasingly operating in commons-like frameworks, for example by relying on digital participation platforms and shared resources on the Internet or in their physical surroundings (see e.g. Benkler 2006, DiSalvo et al. 2012 for examples). In this workshop we aim to explore the theme of the commons, which has been gaining more relevance especially with discussions on the digital, p2p production and community participation. Whereas the theme of the commons has previously concentrated more on the management of shared natural resources (Ostrom 1991), it has been increasingly linked to many other areas of human activity (see e.g. Bollier & Helfrich 2012). New commons are being created everyday everywhere in order to share resources and tackle common problems (see Hess 2008 for an overview of new commons).

As discussed above this poses a novel challenge for professional designers to think about how we can design better infrastructures and frameworks that enable, mediate and foster the emerging and increasingly complex ““commoning practices””, and new design principles and practices to contribute to, sustain, foster and design commons (Marttila & Botero 2013, Gil & Baldwin 2013). We propose that it is time for the design research community to engage more seriously with research and activities done around the concept of “commons” .

We invite the DRS community to reflect and explore on these connections by collecting examples, sharing experiences and mapping implications that relate (but not limited) to:

– What are the emergent design characteristics of peer and commons-based projects?

– How can we link discussions and research done in ““commons”” framework to collaborative practices found in design (e.g. around user centered design, participatory design and open design )? What can these diverse activities inform each other more?

– What perspectives and actions need to be brought to the development of new design research agendas that consider commons as context and goal (e.g infrastructuring as in Björgvinsson et al. 2012)?

– What could be considered design principles, strategies and practices for sustainable and enduring Commons Design?

Workshop Format

Participants will have access to each other’s contributions online before the workshop with the aim of getting familiar with the issues and concerns everybody brings.

The workshop will begin with a general introduction to cover background concepts and topics to frame the session. We will continue with a joint session to identify themes (using matrix and visualizations), clarify questions and make connections amongst the submissions.

After mapping out the themes emerging in the interrelation of design and  commons  we will form thematic discussion groups. The afternoon will start with concentrated work in small teams. Each working group will document their discussion in a commonly agreed format. The workshop will conclude with a joint session to share insights and prepare a summary as well as discuss possibilities for future collaboration.

A discussion list for participants to remain in contact will be created. Organizers will work with interested participants on the issues raised at the workshop for further dissemination

Workshop Participants

Maurizio Teli / Beyond the commons: a research agenda on designing the Common

Laura Popplow / Fungutopia, Designing Awareness for the Commons of the Kingdom of Fungi

Taylor Kuhn / Designing Resiliency for the Commons

Mariana Salgado / Voices of Diasporas – Commoning Audiovisual Archives by Including People from different Cultural Background in Remix Practices

Judith Dobler  / Imagining together. Epistemic Potentials of Collaborative Drawing Practices

Frederick van Amstel Gonzatto, Rodrigo Fresse, Pedro Henrique Jatobá, / Design livre at Corais Platform: an experience in cultivating a design commons with free software.

Annelie Håkansson / An architecture initiative

Kari-Hans Kommonen / Redesign of Society

Peter Parker / Enabling Urban Commons

Sanna Marttila, Andrea Botero, Joanna Saad-Sulonen / Commons Design and Design Commons

Erling Björgvinsson  /Commons & Cultural Organizations – a tentative research agenda

Workshop organizers

Sanna Marttila, School of Art, Design and Architecture, Aalto University sanna.marttila[at]aalto.fi

Andrea Botero, School of Art, Design and Architecture, Aalto University andrea.botero[at]aalto.fi

Joanna Saad-Sulonen, School of Art, Design and Architecture, Aalto University joanna.saad-sulonen[at]aalto.fi

Erling Björgvinsson, School of Arts and Communication, Malmö University. erling.bjorgvinsson[at]mah.se

Peter Parker, Department of Urban Studies, Malmö University, peter.parker[at]mah.se

Anna Seravalli, School of Arts and Communication, Malmö University. anna.seravalli[at]mah.se

Submission Process

Interested applicants will submitted via email (sanna.marttila[at]aalto.fi) a short position paper documenting a case study or example, specific principles or practices and critical analysis and challenges to this phenomena (deadline for submission is 1st of April 2014). Submissions consisted of:

1) Two pages (2 A4 as PDF) document, with a short description of the project/interest and answers to the following questions:

– Was the theme of commons a driving force in the project, or even articulated at all?

– Why do you think this project addresses the theme of designing commons or commons for design, and in what way?

2). Three to five bullet points with initial thoughts regarding the themes of designing commons and/or commons for design.

Important dates:

• Deadline for submission of position statements: 1 April 2014  15 April 2014 (extended deadline)

• Notification of acceptance to workshop participants: 30 April 2014

• Full day workshop: 15 June 2014


Benkler, Y. (2006). The Wealth of Networks␣: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. Yale University Press.

Björgvinsson, E., Ehn, P., & Hillgren, P.-A. (2012). Agonistic participatory design: working with marginalised social movements. CoDesign, 8(2-3), 127––144. doi:10.1080/15710882.2012.672577

Bollier, D., & Helfrich, S. (Eds.). (2012). The Wealth of the Commons: A World Beyond Market and State. Levellers Press.

Cross, N. (1981). The Coming of Post-industrial Design. Design Studies, 2(1), 3––8.

Gil, N., & Baldwin, C. Y. (2013). Creating a Design Commons: Lessons from Teachers’’ Participation in the Design of New Schools (Working Paper No. 14-025). Harvard Bussiness School.

Hess, C. (2008). Mapping the New Commons. In Governing Shared Resources: Connecting Local Experience to Global Challenges. Presented at the 12th Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons, University of Gloucestershire, England. Retrieved from http://dlc.dlib.indiana.edu/archive/00003682/

Marttila, S., & Botero, A. (2013). The ““Openness.Turn”” in Co-Design. From Usability, Sociability and Designability Towards Openness. In Co-create 2013, the boundary- crossing conference and Co-design in Innovation (pp. 99––110). Espoo, Finland: Aalto University.

Ostrom, E. (1991). Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge University Press.