Towards openness – A study about open design and its translation from theory into practice

On: July 12, 2012
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About Juliana Paiva
Brazilian, 24 years Graduated in Industrial Design in Rio de Janeiro. Worked on design offices, new media festival and TV channel. Doing a New Media Master and trying to figure out the relationship with behavior and design. Likes films, travel, cartoons, music, memes, design, design thinking and service.


For anyone interested in design, open source and open design, my recently finished (june 2012) MA Thesis is available for download here. Below is the thesis’ abstract:

Following the course of web 2.0, user-generated content and open source software; design disrupts the traditional chain of production and opens itself. Open design is categorized by peer reviewed downloadable products that can be developed by the users themselves with the aid of 3D printers and rapid prototype machines that decreases the human labor, time, cost of fabrication and distribution – since it can be done near the place that has the demand of the product. Similarly to open source software, open design demands the availability of documentation to guarantee the products’ openness.

However, open source software, among most open movements, operate in the virtual realm, dealing with non-physical products. Hence, one may ask: How open software’s concepts translate into the physical design realm? Moreover, how concepts from open design itself behave when put into practice?

This thesis will be elaborated around the relationship among open source software, peer production systems and open design and how theory translates into practice. The thesis will have the aid of a case study based on the open design laboratory, FabLab Amsterdam.

First, the thesis includes a discussion of the two open movements, software and hardware, based on the key concepts of open source software such as produsage, collective intelligence and peer production. Then, open design’s concepts will also be presented to establish the foundations of the thesis.

In order to better understand how the theories of open hardware and software translate into practice, the FabLab case study will be presented. FabLab is a fabrication laboratory that began as an initiative from MIT and nowadays has a large community and laboratories spread all over the world practicing open design. The research counts with interviews with the users, interns and managers about open design, community participation and the FabLab itself. The case study is intended as a practical vision of open design. Moreover, other open initiatives will be presented throughout the thesis and will be theoretically analyzed as well.

Lastly, conclusions about how open theory translates into practice will be drawn based on FabLab’s case study and will be extended to the open design community as a whole.

Juliana Paiva is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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