Seminar Series 2020: Designing the Commons

This seminar series is organised by the Institute for Design Innovation, Loughborough University London as part of the ‘Counter-Framing Design‘ project.

Designing the Commons 

The concept of the commons is mutable and its relevance in the age of digital capitalism hotly contested. Yet, at the onset of the COVID crisis, new commons emerged that responded to frontline struggles in crucial and urgent ways – through the formation of solidarity networks, digital knowledge commons to contest hegemonic digital infrastructures and support mutual aid, alongside community groups who acted to reclaim decaying public spaces in the face of physical distance measures. At the same time, concepts of commons emerge in new visions of the Welfare state (Cottam, 2020)*, that risk being jeopardised by idealist interpretations thereof. Conceiving the commons as a shared collective practice, this interdisciplinary seminar series will focus on these issues and debates to unravel the relevance of commons today, through the lens of design. 

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Commoning Care in Grassroots Maker Communities Speaker: Dr Cindy Kohtala (Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Design, Aalto University, FI) 

Thursday November 26th 10-11.15am

Cindy Kohtala studies DIY makers who design, make, invent and innovate in shared community technology workshops (fab labs, makerspaces, hacklabs and other niche spaces), from a Science & Technology Studies perspective foregrounding design and socio-environmental sustainability. She examines makers’ techno-utopian imaginaries in enacting a ‘new industrial revolution’ and how makers self-organize and act to democratize and localize material production. She also lectures and writes about design-for-sustainability, Product-Service System design, open design, co-design, distributed economies and design activism, and she has been involved in several urban activism initiatives in Helsinki. 

Designing the Cultural Commons Speaker: Torange Khonsari (Director Public Works, Course Leader MA Design for the Cultural Commons, The Cass)

Thursday December 3rd 10-11.15am  

Dr Torange Khonsari is Co-Founder and Director of the art and architecture practice Public Works since 2004, an interdisciplinary practice working on the threshold of participatory and performative art, architecture anthropology and politics. Her projects directly impact public space, working with local organisation, communities, government bodies and stakeholders. Torange has currently written and is course leader of Design for the Cultural Commons Masters at The Cass (London Metropolitan University). She has taught at international universities such as UMA school of architecture in Sweden, unit leader at Royal College of Arty – London, as well as a visiting professor at Barbican and Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Undoing Optimization: Seeking solidarity through the commons Speaker: Dr Alison Powell (Associate Professor Media and Communication, Director JUST AI Network at the Ada Lovelace Institute) 

Thursday December 10th 10-11.15am  

Alison Powell is the Director of the JUST AI network. She is Associate Professor in Media and Communications at the London School of Economics. Her research examines how people’s values influence the way technology is built, and how ethics in practice unfolds in technology design contexts. Alison experiments with participatory and public engagement methods to investigate how we generate knowledge about technology, citizenship, and our futures. Her previous projects include the Horizon 2020-funded VIRT-EU, which examined ways to develop ethics in practice among Internet of Things developer communities, and Understanding Automated Decisions, which considered the possibility and consequences of explaining how algorithms work using design methods and an interactive public exhibition. Alison also shares her insights about how people make knowledge about the city through ‘data walking’ – and her public writing at Her latest book, Undoing Optimization: Civic Action in Smart Cities will be out in early 2021 from Yale University Press.

Design and Changing Institutions: The Case of Commonfare Speaker: Dr Maurizio Teli (Associate Professor of Techno-Anthropology at the Aalborg University, Denmark) 

Thursday December 17th 10-11.15am  

Maurizio has been working in interdisciplinary teams for almost 15 years, focusing on the social and collaborative aspects of digital technologies. He has published at the international level throughout his career, and he has been involved in many conferences and journals in the field of participatory and co-design. In 2018, he was General Co-Chair of PDC2018, the Participatory Design Conference. He has been involved in many international research projects. For example, he was Scientific Coordinator of the FP7 MIC-My Ideal City project (ga° 230554), a project using digital technologies to open up the curatorial process in science centers, and Research and Innovation Coordinator of the H2020 PIE News/Commonfare project (ga°687922).