Pelle Ehn on the Collective Designer:
Modern design was born with the Bauhaus in the beginning of the last century. It was a great political project with a background in the radicalm and revolutionary movements of that time in Europe. The Bauhaus designer was a collective designer and his design manifestos envisioned a new unit of art and technology in the service of the people. However, as all Utopias also the Bauhaus showed to be full of contradictions. Transformed into modernism and functionalism it produced rational living contexts of regular geometric shapes far from the dreams of the people that had to occupy them. Later we have had other collective designers: Scandinavian design, socio-technical design, participatory design, etc. All with great espoused politics as collective designers, with democratic dreams, and lost Utopias. The contemporary designers in the information age rather participate in hybrid networks of mind and matter than make modern products. Could this participation be carried out as professional wisdom and artistry taking the form of collective design as an anxious act of political love? Is this yet another espoused vain dream of democratic utopism lacking concrete power analysis, or is there action space in the new networks for the reflective collective designer to participate in shaping a new unit of art and technology in the service of humanity?
Pelle Ehn is professor at the School of Arts and Communication at Malmö University, and one of the founders of the school and of the Interactive Institute, the associated national research institute. For the last 15 years his research has been focused on design and digital media. His books and papers in journals and international conferences on the subject include Computers and Democracy (1987), Work-Oriented Design of Computer Artifacts (1988), Scandinavian Design - on skill and participation (1992) and Manifesto for a Digital Bauhaus (1998).