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Collaborative Media: Production, Consumption, and Design Interventions

With many new forms of digital media, the people formerly known as the audience no longer only consume but also produce and even design media. Jonas Löwgren and Bo Reimer term this phenomenon collaborative media, and in this book they investigate the qualities and characteristics of these forms of media in terms of what they enable people to do.

They do so through an interdisciplinary research approach that combines the social sciences and humanities traditions of empirical and theoretical work with practice-based, design-oriented interventions.

Löwgren and Reimer offer analysis and a series of illuminating case studies – examples of projects in collaborative media that range from small multidisciplinary research experiments to commercial projects used by millions of people. Löwgren and Reimer discuss the case studies at three levels of analysis: society and the role of collaborative media in societal change; institutions and the relationship of collaborative media with established media structures; and tribes, the nurturing of small communities within a large technical infrastructure. They conclude by advocating an interventionist turn within social analysis and media design.

“‘Collaborative Media’ is fundamentally a book about how we design, satirize, reappropriate, and invent over again. It demonstrates why we should focus not so much on the user in the singular, but in the plural. The book is a necessary and warmly recommended scholarly intervention if you want to understand design and collaborative media – but also collaborative media research.”

—Jussi Parikka


Löwgren, Jonas, and Bo Reimer. 2013. Collaborative Media: Production, Consumption, and Design Interventions. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Jonas Löwgren is Professor of Interaction Design at Malmö University, Sweden. Bo Reimer is Professor of Media and Communication Studies at Malmö University. Both have previously been affiliated with Medea.

Overview of the Book
Part I (Starting Points) defines collaborative media in more detail and positions our work in the emerging landscape of new media scholarship and design (chapter 2). Moreover, it looks at the roles of research more generally. We explore contemporary notions of knowledge production, and we outline a transdisciplinary research approach to collaborative media, where analysis and design are combined (chapter 3).

Part II (Interventions) consists of ten case studies. These are all examples of research projects in collaborative media that we have done ourselves or have had privileged access to through our close colleagues. The cases are chosen to form a broad repertoire of exemplars, spanning different use situations, different intervention purposes, different user population sizes, and different technologies.

We find that there are three meaningful levels at which to discuss collaborative media, and these levels are also represented in the three chapters of part II. Chapter 4 addresses the level of society and particularly the roles of collaborative media in societal change and transformation. The level of institutions (chapter 5) is mainly concerned with existing and established media structures, and their relations to – potentially disruptive – collaborative media. Finally, the level of tribes (chapter 6) is chosen to underscore the potential of collaborative media to nurture communality within a myriad of relatively small social structures coexisting on top of the same technical infrastructure.

Part III offers Insights and Conclusions where we reflect on our experience and situate it in the contemporary scholarly landscape. The structure mirrors part I, with a chapter reflecting on the specificities of collaborative media practices (chapter 7) followed by a closing chapter addressing the practice of transdisciplinary collaborative media research (chapter 8).

Purchase the book through MIT Press or Amazon.

What are people saying about this book?
On his blog, Erik Stolterman, Professor and Chair in Informatics at School of Informatics and Computing, Indiana University, Bloomington, USA, writes:

The book is rich when it comes to insights about collaborative media in our contemporary society, but maybe even more interesting is the overall research stance and approach that the authors outline and subscribe to. The way they do this is unusually detailed and on a level that raises it to become a research “program” or paradigm. I expect and hope that this aspect of the book will receive the substantial interest it deserves and also will lead to engaging critique. This field is in real need of larger ideas when it comes to what the purpose of research is all about and how it is possible for researchers to “keep up” with and participate in the evolution of media.

Vyacheslav W. Polonski, PhD candidate at the Oxford Internet Institute, writes in LSE Review of Books:

This book contributes a number of interesting insights on the implications of digital communication technologies to the literature of computer-mediated communication, exploring how people formerly known as the audience have become more active and empowered with respect to their collaborative, mediated practices. Löwgren and Reimer thoroughly analyse a complex set of issues related to this cultural shift, enriching the existing academic and public debates with new evidence from original case studies and a detailed theoretical discussion of what constitutes collaborative media in the 21st century. I salute the authors for this achievement and highly recommend reading this book.

Other reviews
In Media, Culture & Society, January 2015, vol. 37 no. 1 pp. 154–155
In European Journal of Communication, February 2015, vol. 30 no. 1 pp. 102–104
– Tecnoscienza: Italian Journal of Science & Technology Studies, Vol 5, No 1 (2014)

Related publications
– The Computer is a Medium, Not a Tool: Collaborative Media Challenging Interaction Design
Collaborative media: production, consumption and design
Building knowledge around collaborative media design
Designing Collaborative Media: A Challenge for CHI?