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Figuring things out together: on the relationship between design and collective practice

This dissertation of Anja Groten explores matters of collectivity, drawing from the experience of working with the Amsterdam-based collective Hackers & Designers (H&D). The main thesis of this research is that conventional design vocabularies are not capable of sufficiently expressing and accounting for collectivities‘ resistance to fixation and stabilization. Collective design as it is discussed here challenges notions of individual authorship, differentiations between disciplines, between product and process or between the user and maker. While collectives shape particular affiliations and commitments, design approaches and aesthetics, they also require perspectives on working and designing together that resist linearity, and a progress-based understanding of a design process. By means of several case studies, it is argued that the fragmentation of social and work relations is as much a characteristic of collective practice as the effort to sustain long-term relationships.Thus, collective practice is not fully deliberate, at least not in the same way as for instance ‘teamwork’, ‘the commons’, or ‘cooperativism’, are purposeful organizational frameworks for living, working or being together. Collective Collective design processes take part in and are a result of particular (often fragile) socio-economic, socio-technical conditions that pervade and shape the ways collectives function.

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