Charlotte Hess on “Crafting New Commons”

The keynote speaker of our seminar on November 7th is going to be Charlotte Hess. We are very excited to have her here in Helsinki. For those of you who are not familiar with her work, she sent us a brief intro and an abstract of what she plans to share with us:

hessCharlotte Hess has written and lectured extensively on knowledge, cultural, and new commons. She collaborated with Elinor Ostrom on a number of publications including their co-edited book Understanding Knowledge as a Commons: From Theory to Practice, MIT Press. Many of her articles, papers, and presentations are openly accessible at, &

She is the founder and former Director of the Digital Library of the Commons and is Emerita at Syracuse University where she was Associate Dean for Research, Collections and Scholarly Communication for the Libraries. Hess continues to be an affiliated faculty member at the Ostrom Workshop and also works as a professional artist.

Charlotte’s contribution to the seminar will be:

Crafting New Commons: Designing for Collaboration, Participation, and Sustainability:  Interest in commons is rapidly growing throughout the world. This draw to alternative forms of collaboration and sharing of resources may reflect the rising frustration citizens feel toward ineffectual governments, corporate domination, and mass indifference/inaction to local and global problems. Commons are “institutions” that fall between markets and states. New commons are created everyday when local people come together and engage in self-governing mechanisms in order to share knowledge and expertise, wealth, goods, and all types of other resources.

While people have been working together and building commons for millennia, we have only been intentionally studying these human systems and how they work for about thirty years. Creating effective commons—whether traditional, natural resource commons or new types of cultural, knowledge or urban commons–requires a combination of many  ingredients. “Commoning” or “commons-crafting” involves intentional design, good methods of communication, and active participation of its members. The design craft also necessitates a thorough knowledge of the resource, an understanding of the user community, and adaptation of appropriate rules-in-use.

This presentation draws from the teaching, methodologies, and rich body of research developed at the Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University.

Check the complete program and join us the 7th of November!

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Digital urban commons

The term “urban commons” refers to collectively shared resources related to the urban environment, such as streets, public parks, and shared neighborhood amenities (Foster, 2011). It also can include intangible urban goods, such as the sense of security or belonging (Parker & Johansson, 2011). Issues associated with the management of these types of resources, especially the tangible ones, have laid at the heart of urban governance. So far, solutions have mainly favored either public government provided regulations or the transfer of the resources and their management to the private sector. Lately however, there has been an increased interest in exploring and reflecting upon other types of solutions, which emphasize the collective management of the urban commons (Foster, 2011; Parker & Johansson, 2012) through novel co-governance strategies (Pestoff, 2012) and the identification of possibilities for collaboration between citizen-based self-organized endeavours and the public authorities (Horelli et al., 2013).

As with all aspects of social, cultural, and economic life, the digital dimension of the commons is also apparent when dealing with the urban commons. Information, media, and data about the urban environment is ever increasingly produced by officials as well as citizens. The growing discussion and actions associated with opening up official data has meant that little by little a body of open public urban data is shaping up (Rittenbruch et al., 2012). Furthermore, the amount of citizen generated digital media and data related to the urban environment is growing and can no longer be ignored as valuable resource in urban planning and governance (Saad-Sulonen, 2012). One of the challenges that remain is coming up with mechanisms of exchange, both technical, but most importantly as practices, which support the sharing of these resources across social worlds, as well as their common use. Thus, the collaborative management of urban commons needs also to address the digital dimension and the role of digital urban commons.

We have planned to include the theme of the urban commons in the seminar program, were we will have a parallel session to discuss this. I’d very much like to open up the topic so that we also address the role of the digital urban commons.

Here the complete program of the seminar (7.11.2013),  and the registration form to the Urban Commons session.

Foster, S. (2012). Collective Action and the Urban Commons (SSRN Scholarly Paper No. ID 1791767). Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network. Retrieved from

Horelli, L., Saad-Sulonen, J., Wallin, s. and Botero, A. (May 2013). When self-organization and urban governance intersect: Two cases from Helsinki. Paper presented at the Using ICT, Social Media and Mobile Technologies to Foster Self-Organisation in Urban and Neighbourhood Governance conference, Delft, The Netherlands. Retrieved from

Parker, P., & Johansson, M. (2012). Challenges and potentials in collaborative management of urban commons. In Multi-faceted nature of collaboration in the contemporary world (pp. 92–113). Vega Press, Ltd. Retrieved from

Parker, P. ; Johansson, M. (June 2011). The uses and abuses of Elinor Ostrom’s concept of commons in urban theorizing. Paper presented at the International Conference of the EUropean Urban Research Association (EURA) 2011 – Cities without Limits. Retrieved from

Pestoff, V. (2012). Innovations in public services: Co-production and new public governance in Europe. In A. Botero, A G. Paterson, Saad-Sulonen, J. (Eds), Towards Peer Production in Public Services: Cases From Finland. Aalto University Publication Series Crossover 15/2012, (pp.13–33). Helsinki: Aalto University. Retrieved from

Rittenbruch, M., Foth, M., Robinson, R., & Filonik, Dl. (2012). Program your city : designing an urban integrated open data API. In Hyvönen, Helena & Salmi, Eija (Eds.) Proceedings of Cumulus Helsinki 2012 Conference: Open Helsinki – Embedding Design in Life, Cumulus International Association of Universities and Colleges of Art, Design and Media, Aalto University, Helsinki, pp. 24-28. Retrieved from

Saad-Sulonen, J. (2012). The role of digital media content creation and sharing in participatory e-planning. International Journal of E-Planning Research (IJEPR). 1(2), 1-22.

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On infrastructuring

We  found this interesting Brazilian researcher (Miguel Said Vieira) who gave a keynote in a recent conference on the commons with the tile “New Infrastructures for Commoning by Design” which rings a bell of similarity to ours 🙂

Since some people have asked what do we mean with the “infrastructuring” in the title we are adding this note here. When deciding the title of the seminar we are inspired by this line of work (all linked to digital information systems and media):


  • Star, S. L., & Ruhleder, K. (1996). Steps Toward an Ecology of Infrastructure: Design and Access for Large Information Spaces. Information systems research, 7(1), 111–134.
  • Star, S. L., & Bowker, G. (2006). How to Infrastructure. In L. A. Lievrouw & S. Livingstone (Eds.), The Handbook of New Media – Student edition (pp. 230–244). Sage Publications, Inc.

recent work:

  • Björgvinsson, E., Ehn, P., & Hillgren, P.-A. (2010). Participatory Design and “Democratizing Innovation”. In Proceedings of the 11th Biennial Participatory Design Conference (pp. 41–50). New York, NY, USA: ACM. doi:10.1145/1900441.1900448
  • Björgvinsson, E., Ehn, P., & Hillgren, P.-A. (2012a). Agonistic participatory design: working with marginalised social movements. CoDesign, 8(2-3), 127–144. doi:10.1080/15710882.2012.672577
  • Björgvinsson, E., Ehn, P., & Hillgren, P.-A. (2012b). Design Things and Design Thinking: Contemporary Participatory Design Challenges. Design Issues, 28(3), 101–116. doi:10.1162/DESI_a_00165
  • Karasti, H., & Syrjänen, A.-L. (2004). Artful infrastructuring in two cases of community PD. In Proceedings of the eighth conference on Participatory design: Artful integration: interweaving media, materials and practices – Volume 1 (pp. 20–30). New York, NY, USA: ACM. doi:10.1145/1011870.1011874
  • Pipek, V., & Wulf, V. (2009). Infrastructuring: Toward an Integrated Perspective on the Design and Use of Information Technology. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 10(5). Available online

We look forward to elaborate this more in the coming months!

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Four conceptual notions on the commons (By Helfrich and Bollier)

In their keynote address for the Economics and the Commons Conference Silke Heilfreich (and David Bollier) propose 4 interesting conceptual points to fine tune a more coherent definition of the commons that they see is missing.

The 4 points are explained in more detailed in the post / video of the presentation but I will summarize them here to help us adding in preparing our own work and seminar:

1. The commons is not a resource, but a process.  Their point suggest that resources are not simply “ commons”. A commons is a relational quality that depends on actions and decisions taken by a group of people.  The implication for this is to  focus more attention on the processes – commoning – and not on the “resources”.

2. the common categorization of the commons needs an upgrade. in their view the common classification and distinction made between categories such as (material) commons and “cultural commons” or “digital commons” (immaterial commons) is unhelpful as analytical strategy. Their view is that every commons has a material and knowledge basis. There are no ‘pure knowledge commons’ as much as the ‘natural commons’ are inseparable from the knowledge that is needed to manage and steward them.

3. Every commons needs protection (or: going beyond openness).  An access rule in the commons is mostly a means to make sure, that there is fairness in the commons. They propose that we need to recognize that openness does not guarantee that things will remain open.

4.  The commons does not “scale up,” but rather slowly crystallizes instead of being obsessed with “scaling up” isolated things they see the challenge laying more in unleash the potential of the commons through commons-enabling infrastructure, laws, platforms and technologies that support things to extend horizontally and interconnect.

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From new forms of production towards building commons! A direction for the SIG

As a continuation of the theme “co-creation, co-governance and peer-to-peer production on public services” the co-p2p SIG continues its work now focusing more on “commons” (see e.g Ostrom 1990) as a framework to expand our understanding of emerging considerations for the design, provision and maintenance of “public” services and urban space.

During 2013, several researchers both at Aalto ARTS and Aalto ENG will be working on this topic through this initial set of questions:

1) How to move from existing marginal and grassroots initiatives towards building and sustaining a “commons”? (see Salet, Bertolini & Giezen,2012; Savini 2011). How to enhance the collaboration between these initiatives and different public bodies/institutions?

2) Can  design research contribute to the development of new types of actions and vocabulary?  For example it has been suggested that “communing” is a needed intervention that pose interesting connotations that go beyond what mere outsourcing or crowdsourcing concepts imply, and that at the same time offer a new perspective on the pervasiveness of the “privatization” discourse (see Hellfrish & Bollier 2012). What is needed to opening up, design and develop services that contribute to a commons?

3) What is the role of digital Media in the co-creation of the commons? What should be developed in areas such as community informatics (see e.g Cindio & Schuller 2012) , participatory design and other frameworks?

Stay tuned and let us know if you want to contribute towards a seminar we are planning for the fall 2013

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Book release: Towards Peer-production in Public Services: cases from Finland

We are happy to announce that the book is ready and looking nice. The PDF of the book can be freely downloaded from :

1) This website you are visiting (p2p-public-services-finland-2012) (PDF 1.9MG)

2) From the online bookstore of Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, by visiting this link.

We will also made it available in other places, as soon as we get time to do it. Meanwhile we are celebrating the launch with a 2 week long Facebook party, join us!

Book cover

Thanks for all the authors for their hard work and for sharing with us their thoughts and ideas on the topic. We are also grateful for our graphic designer Anssi Kokkonen who cope with us in the last weeks and made a magnificent job. The nice people at Aalto ARTS publications (Especially Sanna Tyyri-Pohjonen) should also be thanked for helping out with the process and all the details. With out the financial support of Aalto Service Factory there would have been no book.

Andrea, Andrew & Joanna

PS: Thanks also to our first avid readers for pointing out typos and to Heikki for helping fixing them 🙂

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Towards peer production in public services: Cases from Finland – Pre release teaser

The book is almost ready and we think is taking a nice shape. Our release day is the 31st of May so please come later to download your free copy. For now we would like to invite you all to take a peep in to the Table of Contents and Introduction of the publication.

p2p cover image

” There are many challenges  and opportunities in designing, developing and maintaining services for participatory modes of governance, not to mention their co-creation and peer-to-peer aspects. We ask what can be learned from current research, and what is happening already beyond academia? With the aim to increase the opportunities for dialogue between the Finnish scene and the international context, we gather this collection of articles that deal broadly with the relationships between peer-to-peer dynamics, and public services. Most of the cases presented are illustrative of recent developments and discussions in Finnish society, however, also included are broader international perspectives, giving historical reflection and future-oriented speculation on what might be the outcomes.”
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A publication in the making

We have been busy with all sorts of things and forgot to advertise that we are working on a ‘Towards Peer-production of (public) Services’ publication following the 2010 Seminar.

Our aim is to make an electronic publication, and made it widely available for free and with an appropriate license to let it fly!  There will be approximately 10 articles and it includes many of the seminar cases, but also a few new. The target are not only researchers working around this topics, also professionals in service-design, socially-engaged processes, cultural production and public service management. Everything from enthusiastic individuals to people interested in knowing more located in small to large institutions.

Our first drafts should come in on Friday 17th February and the final publication released in May. Stay tuned!!

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Upcoming and related events

Coprodnet, an interdisciplinary academic research network on
co-production, organized the Co-production: big idea for the ‘big
society’? conference in the Manchester Business School on 4 November,
2010. Find more information at the conference website.

The UnConference, with the focus on “co-production as an opportunity
to improve public services and create new working opportunities in
time of crisis” will be held in Milan, Italy on 15 November 2010.
The UnConference webpage holds more information.

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Documentation of the cop2p 2010 seminar available

The Seminar 2010 page has been updated and the documentation of the “Co-creation, co-governance and peer-to-peer production of public services” seminar 2010, including the videos of the keynote speakers, case presentations and discussions as well as the presentation slides, can be found there.

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