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Valeria Graziano: CfP The Politics of Commoning and Design
2016 Design Research Society conference, Brighton, UK.

CFP The Politics of Commoning and Designing

| DRS2016 Additional Theme Session

Valeria Graziano, ADRI Postdoctoral Research Fellow, is co-chair of the addition themed session titled The Politics of Commoning and Designing at the 50th Anniversary International Design Research Society Conference 27-30 June 2016, Brighton, UK.

Please see below for the Call for Paper.


Theme Session Proposal for 2016 Design Research Society conference, Brighton, UK.

Deadline for full papers: 9th November 2015.

Theme Chairs: Bianca Elzenbaumer (Leeds University), Valeria Graziano (Middlesex University), Kim Trogal (Central Saint Martin).

This theme aims to bring together practitioners, activists and researchers to explore the tensions and potentialities around commoning in design and the (re)production of ‘community economies’. As De Angelis (2007) and others point out, commons are today thought as the basis on which to build social justice, environmental sustainability and a good life for all. But they, just as ‘community economies’ (J.K. Gibson-Graham and Roelvink, 2011), operate within a world dominated by capital’s priorities and are thus also sites of struggle as well as targets of co-optation and enclosure.
We invite papers that relate to the following questions:
What are the tensions and contradictions we encounter or create when designing for the commons? In activating commons to create and sustain alternative livelihoods, how does the role of designers change as well?
If we take the commons and ‘community economies’ as a tool rather than as a goal, what do they allow us to contribute to?
What practices of self-organization and division of labour are useful in getting people involved in commoning for progressive social change?
This panel wants to focus on, amongst other things, how design relates to new forms of enclosure, struggles and social justice, and the reproductive labour necessary to care for commons. It seeks to benefit practitioners who want to imagine alternative ways of making their livelihoods away from waged relations and professionalism, and those who are questioning the role of the designer as a problem solver not implicated in the “community” s/he interacts with.

Whenever the commons are discussed in the context of design, the discourse tends to privilege certain aspects of the theory as proposed by authors such as Elinor Ostrom or the P2P Foundation. While these sources provide some useful guidance and rules that are readily applicable by designers to their professional practices, the lack of inclusion of other perspectives risks leaving some significant political aspects unaddressed in theory and practice. The basic conditions in which workers and students within design are now operating (e.g. regulatory capitalism, which is making commoning, self-provisioning and ad-hoc arrangements increasingly hard in urban environments) are also seldom included in the conversation. Topics such as new forms of enclosures, struggles and social justice, or the reproductive labour necessary to care for commons, for instance, as discussed by Midnight Notes (1990), Federici ( 2011), Harvey (2012), Negri and Hardt (2009), Harney and Moten (2013) and Dardot and Laval (2014) are rarely touched upon. However, without a rigorous engagement with these issues, commoning risks being transformed into a “feel good” label for projects that are only mildly capable of meeting the pressing issues faced by society today.


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Benesch, Hammami, Holmberg, Uzer (eds). 2015. Heritage as Common(s) – Commons as Heritage, Curating the City Series. Göteborg: MAKADAM FÖRLAG Books.
De Angelis, M. (2007). The Beginning of History: Value Struggles and Global Capital. London: Pluto Press.
De Angelis, Massimo and Stavrides, Stavros. 2010. “On the Commons: A Public Interview with Massimo De Angelis and Stavros Stavrides.” in E-flux 17 (August 2010). http://www.e-flux.com/journal/view/150.4
Elzenbaumer, Bianca. 2014. “Designing Economic Cultures: Cultivating Socially and Politically Engaged Design Practices Against Procedures of Precarisation”. London: Goldsmiths, University of London.
Federici, Silvia. 2011. “Feminism and the Politics of the Commons.” http://www.commoner.org.uk/?p=113.
Gibson-Graham, J.K., and Gerda Roelvink. 2011. “The Nitty Gritty of Creating Alternative Economies.” Social Alternatives 30 (1): 29–33.
Graziano, Valeria, and Mara Ferreri. ‘Passions without objects: the politics of temporary art spaces’, Revue de Recherches Sociologiques et Anthropologiques, 45 (2), 2014: 83-102.
Hardt, Michael, and Antonio Negri. 2009. Commonwealth. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Harney, Stefano, and Fred Moten. 2013. The undercommons: Fugitive planning & black study. Brooklyn: Minor Compositions.
Harvey, David, 2012 Chapter 3 The Creation of the Urban Commons, in Rebel cities: from the right to the city to the urban revolution. Verso Books, 2012: 67- 88
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Petrescu, Doina and Trogal, Kim, (forthcoming). The Social (Re)Production of Architecture. Politics, Economies and Actions in Contemporary Practice. London: Routledge.