As the School of Arts and Communication was founded with the inauguration of Malmö University in 1998, the key idea was to address the future of computers as media for human communication, by combining interaction design with media and communication studies.
The research in this interdisciplinary field has evolved over the years, mostly in the form of experiments with new media services and practices in a variety of application domains such as healthcare, news, public information, entertainment, urban development and social innovation.
The work has been comparatively successful. For example, Erling Björgvinsson was awarded the best PhD dissertation at Malmö University in 2007; Jonas Löwgren was rated #1 of all Malmö University researchers in aggregated bibliometric indices from Web of Science and Google Scholar for the period 2003-09; Högskoleverket granted Malmö University the right to confer PhD degrees in the field of New media, public spheres and forms of expression in 2010.
A high-level model for collaborative media
Recently, however, the interdisciplinary work has moved to a new level. Existing Medea work has already advanced the international state of the art in conceptualizing design processes for social innovation, where the idea of design as infrastructuring has been instrumental.
Now, Medea researchers propose a new high-level model for collaborative media that identifies three key moments: design, production and consumption. The key insight lies in the fact that the design moment is understood as infrastructuring, thus providing a strong conceptual link between media and communication studies and interaction design. This link represents a major step forward for the interdisciplinary effort, as witnessed by its reception in the international academic community:
– three articles have recently been published or accepted for publication in archival journals, with authors including Erling Björgvinsson, Pelle Ehn, Anders Emilson, Per-Anders Hillgren and Anna Seravalli;
– the book Design Things, with Pelle Ehn and Per Linde as co-authors, was published by MIT Press in 2011;
– a contract has been signed to publish the book Collaborative Media by Jonas Löwgren and Bo Reimer with MIT Press;
– work has been initiated with Georgia Tech to launch a new academic journal in the field of collaborative media.
A coherent framework has been established
The new model has significant implications for media and communication studies in that it provides analytical leverage and points towards a way to combine creative and analytical work in research. For interaction design, it offers a useful way to conceptualize collaborative media and its implications for design processes and designer roles.
Ongoing work at Medea and Malmö University in Living Labs, social innovation and collaborative media design now has a coherent framework that will undoubtedly strengthen its future positions and make it easier to develop collaboration with computer science, urban studies and other related fields. On the whole, we find this to be a fine example of the reflection and well-grounded concept development that is the very reason for academic research.