Designing within the Open Source Circular Economy

OSCED_BAUFONT_LANGQUER_FINAL_DATE_03_FINAAAAAAAL-02Four days of discourse, workshops and face-to-face learning commenced today at Helsinki’s Open Source Circular Economy jamboree. As the event’s title suggests this is where the practices and ethics of the open source movement come together with those seeking to produce more holistic, empathic economic models – in this case for the ‘circular’ economy, a descriptor that has gained  traction in Europe over the last few years. Underlying this OSCE event is an assumption that:

‘A waste-free and sustainable circular economy cannot work without transparency, open access and open source solutions.’

How is this to be achieved? According to the organisers:

‘Experts and innovators from the fields of open source hardware, software, data, design, circular economy, waste, resource management and the collaborative economy will work together, globally connected, in order to develop, exchange ideas and prototype systems, products and designs for an Open Source Circular Economy.’

Some of these experts and innovators contributed to the recently published book Agents of Alternatives: Re-designing Our Realities. Indeed many contributors to this book directly or indirectly reference ‘alternative economies’, a topic we’ve addressed in this blog. In asking ‘What can design(-ing) contribute?’, we would point you to our open source designCapitalia cards, launched at the Open Knowledge festival in Helsinki in 2012. These cards help think about diverse hard and soft ‘capitals’ and ask which ones do we wish to grow, nourish, maintain or dimish. In 2013, using fashion and clothing as a vehicle for exploring alternative ‘value propositions’ through Mode Uncut, Anja-Lisa Hirsher and I proposed ways of ‘seeing’ other forms of exchange between designers, producers/suppliers, consumers and other actors (Figure 1) (Note 1).


Figure 1. Monetary and non-monetary exchanges in the 'open design' market

Figure 1. Monetary and non-monetary exchanges in the ‘open design’ market

We also developed the ‘open-o-meter’ as a means to ask which parts of a design might be ‘open’/’closed’, paid for/free (Figure 2).

Figure 2. The Open-o-meter showing IP and pricing options.

Figure 2. The Open-o-meter showing IP and pricing options.

And we mapped different ‘types’ of economy, based upon commonly used adjectives to describe the economy, asking how design could make a contribution (Figure 3).


Traditional & Neo-liberal, Transitional and Alternative Economies.

Traditional & Neo-liberal, Transitional and Alternative Economies.

Looking at the diverse agenda of the OSCE event I would suggest the ‘Open Source Circular Economy’ could act as a way to ‘bridge’ between the transitional/alternative and the traditional/neo-liberal economies. The opportunities for designers here seem particularly rich. For the last two years I’ve been running the Joint Masters Introduction Course at Dept. of Design, Aalto ARTS, Aalto University for 120-140 new postgraduates where we’ve been exploring themes of openness and collaboration. The students work in teams and, at the end of the 7-day course, do a ‘pop-up’ public event. You can see some of the ‘outputs’ on Open Market of Experiments and, hopefully, feel the enormous positive energy generated by these activities. This year’s theme in September is ‘design practices in transition’.

So, we wish ‘good luck’ to the people at this week’s Open Source Circular Economy event and hope it attracts lots of designers and creative professionals and citizens alike!

AFL, 11.06.2015

Note 1: Hirscher, Anja-Lisa and A.Fuad-Luke. (2013) ‘Open participatory designing for an alternative fashion economy’, pp.172-197, in Niinimäki, Kirsi (ed.), Sustainable Fashion: New approaches, Helsinki, Finland:Aalto ARTS Books. ISBN 978-952-60-5572-5. You can download a free pdf here.


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