Making Commons: Attempts at Composing Prospects in the Opening of Production

Open Access:

Seravalli, Anna. 2014. “Making Commons: Attempts at Composing Prospects in the Opening of Production.” PhD diss., Malmö University.

ABSTRACT – This thesis accounts for a designerly inquiry into the swamp of the opening of production. The “opening of production” refers to the rising of openness, collaboration and sharing in processes through which things are made and services delivered. It is defined as a swamp, because it represents a complex landscape where theory and practice meet and where diverse views and understanding of what openness, collaboration and sharing may entail are intertwined.

The interest in exploring such a swamp stems from two concerns. The first is understanding the nature of open, collaborative, sharing production practices and to what extent they can lead to more environmentally and socially sustainable ways of producing things and delivering services. The second concern is how, as a designer, it might be possible to engage in not only envisioning and prototyping, but also in constructing open, collaborative, sharing-production practices.

In methodological terms, this thesis uses a programmatic approach, which means the way knowledge is produced is in the interaction between the practice and the program that defines the focus of the inquiry; also, in what is to be explored and how to explore it. In regard to practical work, this thesis is based on two long-term engagements: the setting up and running of a makerspace, Fabriken, and the long-term collaboration with an NGO of immigrant women, Herrgård’s Women Association. The program aims at exploring making commons and does so out of an interest in composing prospects.

The notion of making commons brings into the work theories and frames from the academic discourses around commons (i.e. collective and collaborative organizational forms) in order to articulate the nature of open, collaborative and sharing practices; it allows for discussion of the engagements, what they produce, and how they do it. It also allows for consideration into how these practices have been initiated, implemented, and carried out over time.

Composing prospects entails a particular way of exploring alternative futures by engaging in collective and located attempts at constructing them. Thus, it defines a possible way for designers to engage in the making. Further, it provides the possibility to relate the engagements to the expectations and broader scenarios emerging in the opening of production and to articulate what kind of making may be at play in acknowledging hypothetical futures as possible presents.

This inquiry builds on and addresses the fields of design for social innovation, participatory design, and commons.

Keywords: social innovation, commons, participatory design, interaction design, prototyping