Digital commons, urban struggles and the role of Design

Elizabeth Calderon-Lüning, Blanca Domínguez Cobreros, Gesche Joost, Andreas Unteidig



In this paper, we reflect on design as a field that is currently in the process of re-evaluating its political agency. Generally, the political dimensions of design are reflected upon thoroughly and are under continual development, however, this paper describes a break in today’s discourse about design as a political actor: While historically designers have attempted to induce social change by designing objects, today (social) design understands itself as a change agent in a much more direct relation to the social. Reflecting on possible implications, we identify the need to re-evaluate and differentiate our understanding of design’s roles to productively deal with the contradictions that arise from the traditional framings of our field in the context of this paper. We also describe our approach for exploring this problem space both theoretically and practically. For this, we reflect on our contributions to MAZI, an interdisciplinary and EU-funded research project at the interface of DIY networking technology, participatory design and civic political initiatives, which allows for practical exploration of this query on various levels. After describing the structure and setup of the project as interpreted through the lens of the problem space laid out in the paper, we discuss preliminary insights that emerge from the project work vis-à-vis the issues presented and provide an outlook on future work.

Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz
German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence