FYI: Infrastructuring the Commons? – Seminar 2013

Theme: Infrastructuring the Commons? – Seminar 2013
Date: November 7. 2013 – 9:00-16:00
Place: Media Factory Auditorium (Aalto University, Arabia Campus – Hämeentie 135 a 3rd floor, Helsinki)
Organizer: Aalto University, Special Interest Group in co-p2p
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The concept of  Commons has been used in very flexible ways to describe the status of natural resources like water or air, cultural ones like shared heritage. It has also  been recently linked to other social creations like libraries, parks and public space, as well online digital environments. Spanish researcher Antonio LaFuente states that the commons “are a new way of expressing a very old idea: that some things belong to everyone and as a whole, they comprise a set of resources that should be actively protected and managed”.
This seminar aims at inquiring on the relationship of the current discourse on the commons, to emerging art, design and planning practices; specifically those engaged actively with collaborative digital media. One particular goal is to link recent developments that relate to practices of infrastructuring  (as discussed in new media, interaction design, community and urban informatics, participatory design and e-planning) to the idea of design principles for stable commons elaborated first by Ostrom in her seminal Governing the Commons book (1990) and then taken further by Hess (2008) in relationship to emerging new commons.
  • How designers, artists and other practitioners can build upon commons principles?
  • What other design principles are needed to support emerging new commons?
  • What role does collaborative digital media plays in identifying and enabling those principles?
In the morning will work in plenary session  via a key note speech, several invited presentations and panel discussion. This part of the program is open to all interested. Register to the seminar now via this form!
During the afternoon we will break in several parallel sessions. Participation in this sessions requires sending a specific contribution to one of the sessions via this other form!
The seminar will be preceded by an internal preparatory workshop the 24th of October.


9:00 Coffee
9:15 Welcome / Introductions
09:30 Keynote: Crafting New Commons: Designing for Robust Collaboration, Participation, and Sustainability. Charlotte Hess (University of Syracuse – Emerita)
Abstract: Interest in commons is rapidly growing throughout the world. This interest may reflect the rising frustration citizens feel toward ineffectual governments and corporate domination, and mass indifference/inaction to local and global problems. Commons are about local people engaging in self-governing mechanisms to solve problems and share knowledge and resources. Commons are “institutions” that fall between markets and states. While people have been sharing resources for millennia, we have only been collectively studying “commons” and how they work for about thirty years.
Creating effective commons—whether traditional, natural resource commons or new types of cultural, knowledge or urban commons–requires a combination of critical many ingredients. “Commoning” or “commons-crafting” involves intentional design, good methods of communication, and active participation of its members. The design craft also necessitates a thorough knowledge of the resource, an understanding of the user community, and adaptation of appropriate rules-in-use. This presentation draws from the teaching, methodologies, and rich body of research developed at the Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University.
10:30 “What do you think you are doing?” Two cases of building commons – Professor Tere Vadén (Aalto ARTS)
The talk presents two recent cases of building commons: Vertaisrahasto / Peer fund, ( and Robin Hood Minor Asset Management ( The first was launched as a vehicle for funding scientific research in an open and democratic manner, without the usual overlays of elitist expert culture. The second is an “investment co-operative of the precariat”, aiming at creating income independent of wage labour.
Both have necessitated an experimental and cross-disciplinary approach, where social, artistic and more narrowly technical issues can be balanced. The experimentality entails improvisation and provisionality, and an attitude that can combine these with the demands of organisation and bureaucracy, especially while both cases deal with money. It seems that some of the open source principles (such as “release early, release often”) are helpful not only in terms of speeding up the development but also in creating essential transparency and trust.
11:00 TBC
11:30 Design principles of emerging commons? – Researchers Andrea Botero, Sanna Marttila and Joanna Saad-Sulonen (Aato ARTS), Karoliina Jarenko (Aalto ENG)
11:45 -12:15 Panel (Moderator: Andrea Botero. Panelists: Charlotte Hess, Tere Vaden, Erling Björgivsson, TBA)
12:15-13:15 Lunch
13:20-15:30 Parallel sessions (NOTE: Participation in this sessions requires invitation / sending a statement of interest to the organizers. )
The aim of the sessions will be to discuss different approaches and resources that relate to the theme of Infrastructuring the Commons. We are also interested in identifying themes and contributions for a forthcoming publication. In keeping with the topics of the sessions we hope the sessions will be engaging and participative for all. The goal is to engender a cross-disciplinary network of researchers and practitioners with a joint interest in understanding the new commons.
  • Caring Commons (Organizers: Andrea Botero and )
  • Cultural Commons (Organizers: Sanna Marttila and Erling Bjorgvinsson)
  • Urban Commons (Organizers: Joanna Saad-Sulonen and Karoliina Jarenko)
  • TBC
The sessions adopt an interdisciplinary approach. We invite researchers and practitioners from various fields (e.g. service design, design research, collaborative media design, digital design, cultural and media studies, urban planning, urban studies, economics, and social sciences). We ask prospective participants to submit via this online form a statement of interest that will form the basis of the afternoon session working material. Please note that these contributions will be made available online for the participants of each session.
15:30-16:00 Coffee & Plenary round-table
16:00-16:15 Wrap-up and closing of the seminar
The seminar is organized by Aalto University, Special Interest Group in co-p2p. Funding to organize the seminar has been partly granted by Aalto University Service Factory.
For general inquiries please contact Andrea Botero (andrea-dotbotero-at-aalto-dot-fi)
See Charlotte Hess’s writing Crafting the Commons.


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