Monday, 20 February 2012

Defining Open Design as an Open Knowledge Domain

Massimo Menichinelli of Aalto Media Factory writes about open design and the second Open Data meet-up in Helsinki.

As Kat Braybrooke wrote one month ago, the discussion about Open Knowledge has already started in Finland with a great involvement of people. During the first meet-up of the Open Knowledge Foundation held in Helsinki we had so many interesting ideas and discussions that we decided to organize at least another meet-up in January. Furthermore, we decided to focus this second meet-up on one specific topic of the Open Knowledge universe, Open Design.

The reason for this choice is that the Open Design idea has been around for a bit more than a decade, but only in the past 3 years it has finally bloomed into an ecosystem of initiatives, becoming thus a real phenomenon and not just a hypothesis. However, there is still a lot of work to be done for the development of Open Design: it is not yet clear how to deal with the intellectual property aspects; there is a need for new business models; the interactions between professional designers, companies and amateur designers are still to be understood. Furthermore, there is still not a clear and shared definition and vision of what Open Design is, beside the sharing of design blueprints and the use of more accessible fabrication technologies. Open Design could potentially be a useful strategy for developing more sustainable and user-centered products and services and for enabling more active citizens and bottom-up entrepreneurship in society, but we need to discuss it a bit more before it can have a full impact on society.

We then hosted this second meet-up on January 28th 2012 at Aalto Media Factory in Helsinki,  the platform for collaboration and development in media-related research and education within the Aalto University, where we are building the first Finnish FabLab, the Aalto FabLab. It's really a pleasure for me that we were able to host this event and start facilitating a discussion about Open Design in the Aalto University and in the city of Helsinki!

As you can see from the presentation below and the pictures above, during that event we started discussing the current situation in Open Design and then we moved towards possible projects to be developed in the following months, in order to further develop Open Design and the local Finnish Open Design community. The goal of the meet-up was to start a discussion and not necessarily to already start projects, however the participants are already thinking about further developing of the first ideas that were presented at the event. Furthermore, we focused especially on the situation regarding an eventual Open Design definition (which is still missing), since the Open Knowledge Foundation has been doing a great job in defining the different forms of Open Knowledge.

Why is this event so important? On one side, this event marks another small milestone in the development of local chapter of the Open Knowledge Foundation in Finland with a growing involvement in the local scene. Another reason is that with this event we started a collective and collaborative discussion about an Open Design definition: you will soon hear more information from the Open Knowledge Foundation and the Aalto Media Factory! Furthermore, this event is another step in the preparation of a big event that will take place in Helsinki next September: the Open Knowledge Festival. This year’s Open Government Data Camp and Open Knowledge Conference are joining to form a week-long celebration during 17th-22nd of September 2012. The event will include lectures, seminars, workshops, hackathons, coding jams and it will also highlight the different Finnish Open Knowledge communities. We hope that the collaborative discussion about the Open Design definition will grow and have a  place also during this event.

So far Open Design has been developed by a set of individuals and institutions that started individually but then gradually formed an ecosystem. This nature of distributed and collaborative network is actually what has been making Open Design so interesting and successful, and it is the proof that it could be a real promising perspective for society and not just some amateurs' dream. With the Open Knowledge Festival we hope that the discussion about Open Design will be improved and that the international and local community of open designers will gather in Helsinki and collaborate in shaping Open Design's future.

Massimo Menichinelli
Producer of Aalto Media Factory - Aalto FabLab


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