Anna Seravalli is a design lecturer and researcher at Malmö University. She has a background as industrial designer and a PhD in interaction design with focus on design for social innovation. She is exploring issues and possibilities of open and collaborative processes by practically engaging in long-term collective efforts with a number of different actors in Malmö, Sweden.
Design(ing) in the rise of openness and collaboration
Notions of openness and collaboration are increasingly to be found in discourses about novelty and change. ‘Openness’ refers to the narrative of how, easier access to technologies and means of production empowers end-users and citizens in developing their own products and services outside traditional innovation structures. ‘Collaboration’ refers to the narrative of how, in order to face complex challenges (such climate change, economic crises, cultural integration), there is the need for joint efforts bringing together diverse actors across existing structures.
Design has been also invested by the rise of openness and collaboration. Open design and meta-design are focusing on how to develop infrastructures to support end-users’ own design and production activities. Design for social innovation and social design are often working with how to empower grass-root initiatives, and how to support collaboration between these initiatives and more established actors. There is a growing interest, even outside the design field, about how co-design approaches may be used to establish and support collaborative and inclusive creative processes.
Openness and collaboration are often linked directly to discourses about empowerment and democracy and they are framed as an opportunity to increase diversity and possibilities for participation. However, they are also criticised as being a matter of exploitation of free labour and, when it comes to actual participation and democracy, being unable to affect existing power structures.
Interesting questions / statements
What kind of framings may designers use to reflect on open and collaborative processes as well as inform action in/on them?
What if designers instead of working out from a short-term basis focusing only on envisioning and prototyping, start to engage with a more long-term perspective in open and collaborative processes?
What if designers instead of focusing on issues of participation would turn to issues of ownership, access and decision-making (i.e. commons) in open and collaborative processes?