Está en la página 1de 112


Design for Complexity

Massimo Menichinelli
Software Hardware
Research Social Innovation
Crowdsourcing Knowledge Economy
Design Community
Web 2.0

Complexity Sustainability
Social Network Locality Participation
Massimo Menichinelli

in English
in Italiano:
en Castellano:
in English

Massimo Menichinelli
Some Rights Reserved, 2008

Written and Designed by Massimo Menichinelli

with Scribus, OpenOffice, Gimp, Inkscape, Ubuntu

Anivers, Fontin, Fontin Sans Typefaces by Jos Buivenga

A copy of this book and the Italian and Spanish versions can be downloaded here:

in English



Table of Contents

Introduction 11
01 Design and Locality 13
02 Design and Community 15
03 Design, Community and Free Software / Open Source / Peer-to-Peer 17
04 Design and Complexity for Communities 21
05 Design and Complexity towards Sustainability 25
06 Open P2P Communities 31
06.01 An early definition of Open P2P Communities 31
06.02 A loose definition, between many classifications 34
06.03 An Open P2P Communities list (1.1) 37
06.04 Open P2P Communities and Participation 40
07 The activity of an Open P2P Community and Service Design 43
07.01 Activity of a community and Activity System 43
07.02 Activity and the structure of the Open Peer-to-Peer Communities 45
07.03 Open Peer-to-Peer Communities described with an Activity System 47
07.04 Activity Systems and Service Design 49
08 Open P2P Communities and the Platform 53
09 Open P2P Design: the designer as an enabler 59
10 First examples of an Open and P2P Design 63
10.01 Co-created Service Design: RED's Open Health 64
10.02 Open Design, Open Source Software and Open Hardware: Openmoko 70
10.03 Open Design and Open Hardware: VIA OpenBook 78
11 First guidelines for an Open P2P Design 85
11.01 Analysis 87
11.02 Concept 87
11.03 Parallel co-design / test / setting-up 87
11.04 Self-organization 89
12. Future development for Open P2P Design 95
12.01 Design and research directions 95
12.02 A research for a social knowledge discipline 97
Bibliography 105



This short book represents a summed up and multilingual
version of my thesis, and also as an introduction to the website (with its 1.1 version). My research
behind, in fact, arose from my master
degree thesis that I developed from March 2005 to April 2006,
"Reti Collaborative. Il design per una auto-organizzazione
Open Peer-to-Peer" ("Collaborative Networks. Design for an
Open Peer-to-Peer self-organization"), with prof. Ezio Manzini
as a tutor at the Politecnico di Milano, Faculty of Design. This
research started from the relationship between design and
local dimension, through design for a community, and then
design and community-based organizational forms like Free
Software, Open Source, Peer-to-Peer and Web 2.0 (or, Open
This thesis has represented a huge opportunity to observe a
phenomenon as the passage of Open Source and Peer-to-Peer
organizational forms from the field of IT and ICT to a much
broader number of fields, yet when the term Web 2.0 was in
his first months of life and YouTube had not yet become
famous. Therefore I had the opportunity to know these trends
and their opportunities at their birth, but I could also start to
think and understand how we could learn from them and use
them in the Design field.


EN was born in order to publish, disseminate

and develop further my thesis, and to stimulate on it a
collective discussion. The intention is to render the ideas
behind the thesis not as property of a single person, but to
share them collectively within a community. The thesis as the
first source code on which to develop a community: this is
why it has been translated to English and Spanish too.

This publication is a summary of the thesis and a snapshot of after a year and half from its birth; a
transposition of the blog format in a book format, in an
attempt to maintain the most interesting elements of both
media. There is a space for comments, and in each chapter
you can find the link to the online version, and then leave a
comment or look at the old comments, to enable a collective
discussion about an Open and Peer-to-Peer Design theory and


01 Design and Locality
In the last 7-6 years, the design community has started
approaching the locality with growing interest. For the design
community, the locality is to be intended as the whole
characteristics of the territory where the project is developed
and directed to. The territory of users and designers too: the
territory of every stakeholder. Therefore, many initiatives have
been developed in Europe and in Italy, with the purpose of
redefining a relationship that (almost) have never been: the
relationship between Design and Locality.

Produced by the Industrial Revolution and its Modernity,

Design could be an example of how we always tried to reduce
the complexity of the local dimension to exploit it.
Traditionally, most of the designers think about economies of
scale and mass production, and not about small production
and local scale.
Coming from modern activities and theories, Design follows
their paths too: as they are becoming more interested in local
dimension nowadays (maybe to manage globalization better),
Design is now pretended to develop solutions (and/or new
products and services) to local problems and opportunities.
Therefore locality become the place where new commercial
and sustainable solutions can be found (to the problems old



opportunities generated). Most of the economic theories, from

the mainstream ones (development, and thus local
development) to the more outsider ones (degrowth and thus
localism), think of local dimension as the ideal place for every
action in the future.
Whether conformist or radical, the future has a local

We should reflect more in the future on the relationships

between Design and Economy (and between Economy and
Locality, and Economy and Sustainability): but it is very
important now to point out how the relationship between
Design and Locality is growing. And what it is interesting the
most are the opportunities that this relationship can bring to
the sustainability issue.

In order to understand this relationship, we can look at the

map of the intersections between Economics, Marketing,
Architecture, Urban Planning, Institutions and Design as they
became interested in the local dimension. And then wen can
see that the most important keyword in this map is
participation , as it is common to all the fields studied.
Theferore we should become interested in communities too,
in order to design for a locality.


Sustainability EN

02 Design and Community
As designers, why are we interested in communities and so in
participation to improve the qualities of a locality towards
sustainability? The Design community has reflected upon the
sustainability issue in the past years, why it is interested also
in communityies now?

For sure, the Design community has reflected upon

sustainability, learning from successes and failures1. Now, we
are at a point where we know that simply redesigning
products (ecodesign) reducing materials number and quantity
and proposing services (which are not so immaterial as we
thought) it’s not enough to achieve sustainability.
These attempts have brought to a completely opposite effect
(rebound effect), an incredible growth of products and services
on the market (and, as a consequence, a growth in the use of

Maybe it’s better to propose (and improve the diffusion of)

sustainable lifestyles, based on sustainable and fair use of
resources. Lifestyles that could be proposed by designers or
companies, but already exist in the society, though they are

1. Manzini E., Jegou F. (2003)



not very well known and widrespread. Ezio Manzini calls

these cases Creative Communities2, i.e. bottom-up
communities that self-organize to solve local problems in a
sustainable way.
Design could support the emergence and diffusion of the
Creative Communities, providing them products,
communication tools, services and strategies that can help
them doing their activities. But Design have (almost) never
considered communities, how can it relate with communities
in participative projects?

Designers could learn something from Architecture, Urban

Planning and Web Design, that usually deal with participation.
Maybe the Design community could learn how to face the
complexity of communities an of their local dimension,
looking at whom have been capable to do it successfully…for
example, Open Source communities, P2P communities and
similar communities…

2. Manzini E. (2006)


Free Software
Open P2P Design
Communities Community
03 Design, Community and Free Open Source
/ Open Source / Peer-to-Peer Peer-to-Peer
Why should Design learn from Free Software, Open Source
and P2P how to relate to a community?

Because Free Software, Open Source and P2P communities

have developed some organizational forms and principles that
can lead a community to self-organization, and potentially to
high dimensions. In other words, they have developed an
approach to a community-based organizational form that
proved its usefulness. For this reason, even in other fields than
software development, Open Source and P2P principles and
organizational forms have been adopted explicitly by many
organizations; moreover, many other organizations that have
not been explicitly inspired by Open Source and P2P use some
principles and organizational forms that come from them.
As a consequence of their success, a general interest in
community-based collaborative forms has been spreading:
this has lead to the discovery of similar cases prior to the Free
Software, Open Source and P2P phenomenon but that share
some features.

All these cases (inspired by, derived by, prior to Free Software,
Open Source and P2P communities) can be grouped (at least



temporarily) in Open P2P Communities, i.e. communities

based on an Open and Peer-to-Peer participation. They can be
grouped temporarily in Open P2P Communities as they are
evolving so fast that new definitions rise often (and
Crowdsourcing and Web 2.0 are just an example).

This success proves that community-based organizational

forms are promising ones and that they can be adopted in
communities with an high number of participants, building
short and long collaborative networks, with high
probabilities of spreading and achieving success in the society.
They represent, maybe, the only participation-based
organizational forms with an high scalability: the more the
participants, the faster they can achieve success.
These organizational forms and principles could be used to
support and spread the activities of the Creative Communities
(or any community). Moreover, user-generated content and
community-based organization represents strong business
opportunities (like YouTube, for example), and so redefining
the role of Design could lead to more business opportunities
for designers too.

The idea is to bring Open P2P principles and practices inside

the design process, and to use the design process to spread
them throughout society. Open P2P organizational forms and



principles as a design tool and as a design goal to support

Creative Communities (or any community). There have been
some initiatives trying to bring the Open P2P philosophy inside
the design process (though we should study this more); but
the proposal now is to use the design process to spread Open
P2P philosophy throughout society too, at least where it could
be more useful.

Now we know where Design can find informations and

expertises on how to relate to a community. But a community
is a complex entity, a real complex system. And if it has large
dimensions, we cannot avoid its complexity.

How should we relate to communities, in a project, when they

can have an huge number of participants? How should we
relate to the complexity of a community? And then, how
should a designer relate to complexity?

In this situation, the same Free Software and Open Source

communities could be useful for us...




Free Software
Complexity Design
Service design
04 Design and Complexity for Open Source
Why Design should learn how to relate to Complexity?

Because the communities and the territories where they live

are so complex that a design process dedicated to them must
understand their complexity, to have greater probabilities of
success. Understanding Complexity, for a designer, means to
design in and for Complexity3. Therefore, in and for the
complexity of a community and of its territory.
The connection between Design and Complexity represents a
an interesting field of research, now in its first steps: the
Complexity Theories are relatively recent and still society (and
therefore also in the Design community), tends to prefer more
the reduction of the complexity, than its valorisation.

We could spend so much time before we understand how to

face the complexity of a community, but fortunately there is a
very important consideration that can help us and comes from
the phenomenon of Free Software/Open Source. According to
Ko Kuwabara4 the Linux community has succeeded because it

3. Pizzocaro S. (2004)
4. Kuwabara K. (2000)



can face the complexity of the project without reducing it,

through its own intrinsic complexity. The Open P2P
organizational forms therefore are potentially suitable to
manage complexity.
We can learn so many things from the Free Software / Open
Source phenomenon, but this is maybe the most important.
On one side, it is an ulterior proof of the validity of the Open
P2P organizational forms and principles, as they can lead to a
promising complexity management. From an other side, they
show that the connection between Design and complexity is
not so distant, if Design will learn to relate to complexity from
the Open P2P communities.

How we could get together Design and Open P2P

Communities, remembering their complexity? In a few words,
the Open P2P Communities are characterized by one main
activity. Luckily, an activity can be considered with a systemic
view (and therefore a complex one) through the Activity
Theory, that has been connected to Service Design by Daniela
Sangiorgi5 (and we will see this more in depth in chapter 07).
The need for a complexity approach in design, is not necessary
only for communities or territories, but it is favorable for
every project too.

5. Sangiorgi D. (2004)



Every product has connections with the social dimension

(who designs it, produces it, sells it, distributes it, uses it) and
the local dimension (where these persons act and from
where they get the resources needed) throughout its life
cycle. Understanding these hidden connections can lead to
design products, communication artifacts, services and
strategies with greater probabilities of sustainability and
commercial success.

The realization of the Complexity dimension is not only useful

for the Design process, but also in the understanding of the
Sustainability issues…




Complexity Design Open P2P
05 Design and Complexity towards Sustainability
Why Design should learn how to relate to Complexity to
understand Sustainability?

Because the lack of understanding the unsustainability of

society is also a problem of lack of understanding the
complexity of the natural, social and economic (complex)
systems in which we live. The attempt of reduction (or
overappreciation) of Complexity was born with Modernity,
that has applied it to the social, natural and territorial
systems (leading us towards the unsustainability we face
For Rullani6 Modernity (and in especially the great fordist
company) generates artificial environments with reduced
complexity, in order to control the behaviour of the agents.
And a modernity that proceeds reducing the complexity of the
human and social dimension has few points of contact with
the territory, that is a layered and localized synthesis of
history, culture and of relations between men and the
ecosystem. In the theory and the practice of the modern
economy, the territory has disappeared.

6. Rullani E. (2002)



Artificial spaces with a reduced complexity for the

convenience of calculation have replaced it. A territory
without complexity is a territory without quality, one of the
many places (or non-places7), accumulations produced by
the economic algorithm. If Design is interested about the
territory (to improve its quality), it must face this complexity.

This reductionist strategy has been proving, during the years,

to be effective only in the short term, having increased
instead problems and secondary effects in the long term,
especially on the sustainability side. Nowadays, most of the
people still consider sustainability in a reductionist way,
searching single practical and technological solutions to
single problems, and not systemic solutions for the
complexity of the social system.
However, there is an emerging awareness of the importance
of facing complexity to attain sustainability, through the
revaluation of the local dimension as the specific place of
action. The complexity of the society and of the ecosystems in
which it resides demands the understanding of the hidden
connections at the local and global scale. In order to
understand where the economical practices (and therefore
also the design practices) are leading us, we must understand

7. Augé M. (1992)



the hidden connections between the economic, social and

natural systems, and the feedback that they generate between
each other. Sustainability, at the local and globl level, has an
unavoidable complex dimension.

Our society, our economy, and the ecosystems in which we

live (and from which we draw resources) are complex systems
that interact between each other; the lack of understanding of
their connections (and therefore of their complexity) leads to
the lack of understanding of the initiatives that are really
necessary for reaching sustainability. In a complex system, the
connections between all the elements of the system represent
the architecture that supports it and allows its survival. The
elimination of a single element can provoke unpredictable
effects, eventually leading to the collapse of the entire system
(in an ecosystem, for example, all the living beings in it).
And therefore the same thing happens also in the social
system and the economic system: every action (also the design
ones) must be thought without underestimating the
complexity and the connections between the elements.

In these connections between social, economic and natural

systems, the designer lives and therefore Design acts, and it
can perhaps learn from the Open P2P Communities how to
manage this variety of elements and directions.



The diversity is the main characteristic of the nature and the

foundation of the ecological stability, and the Open P2P
Communities introduce some suitable practices to valorize
the diversity of their own participants, succeeding in the
construction of a collective intelligence based on an open and
tolerant peer-to-peer learning.
Open P2P organizational forms and principles are very
defined, but still loose, that there is someone that believes
they represent Anarchy, Communism, perfect free market and
therefore Capitalism, or that they are not Communism (or
something similar), or maybe a radically different
phenomenon, that we should study better.
Therefore, it’s possible to study how to modify and apply
these community-based organizational forms, as they can be
adapted to many situations: their flexibility has made them so
widespread. We could use Open P2P organizational forms in
order to diffuse questionable activities like military activities,
control activities, or activities that, with an increase of their
scale, could lead to an increase pollution and the gap between
rich and poor (representing an awful future). Or we could use
them in order to diffuse sustainable activities from the social,
economic and natural point of view.



We can see these organizational forms like a box: they have a

shape (the values and practices), but it is the content that give
them a sense and a direction. A content that must be adapted
to the shape of the box, but we have seen that it is flexible
enough: it is necessary therefore to decide which contents we
should use. As this organizational forms are so suitable to
manage complexity, it is possible to choose them for complex
entities such as the territory and its sustainability, and
therefore for a Design directed to this issues.
Design, Locality, Open Source, P2P, Web 2.0 are therefore the
center of this research, where they will be analyzed from the
complexity and sustainability point of view. We are going to
analyze all the cases that are not explicitly related to
sustainabilty too, as they could be useful in order to
understand how to spread sustainable activities.
We should talk now a little bit more about Open P2P
Communities and about how Design can approach them.




Open Source EN
Web 2.0 Open P2P

06 Open
P2P Communities Crowdsourcing

06.01 An early definition of Open P2P Communities

Before we take a look at the methodological part of my thesis
and the conclusions to draw from it, it would be useful to say
something more aboute those cases that have been defined
Open P2P Communities. The methodology that I have
developed in the thesis, in fact, has been developed taking in
consideration some existing cases before, and later taking in
consideration which design tools and theories were suitable.

Therefore, I searched for cases with a community-based

collaborative organizational form, that can build short and
long collaborative networks, reaching a potentially high
number of participants with an important active role.
This was still a vague definition, therefore I began searching
those cases that were inspired by the Free Software / Open
Source / P2P phenomenon, as already then (at the beginning
of 2005) some believed they had developed organizational
forms and principles that could be adopted in other fields with

8. Mulgan G., Steinberg T., Salem O. (2005)



Collaboration has always existed, but only today its

importance has been amplified to such levels that it is now
considered more promising than competition. Thanks to the
ITC distributed infrastructures, collaboration is being diffused
as an organizational form outside of the Free Software / Open
Source / P2P Communities.

To all these cases directly inspired by the Open P2P

phenomenon9, we can add some other cases that, even if not
explicitly inspired by Open P2P, share some of its features (and
therefore they could have been influenced indirectly)10.
We can also add some previous cases (and therefore without
relations with Open P2P), but that had developed community-
based organizational forms able to build long collaborative
networks with an active role of the participants11.

The existence of these last two categories is of fundamental

importance: community-based organizational forms are not
just for Open Source / Free Software / P2P software, but they
are very important, and as they tend to develop some
common characteristics, they can be used therefore for a

9. For example: Thinkcycle, OSCar, Open Health.

10. For example: BBC Action Network,, Pledgebank.
11. For example: Amul, Dabbawalla, Grameen Bank.



wide range of situations and disciplines, independently from

the degree of technology used. The Open Source / Free
Software / P2P phenomenon is therefore important because it
made us aware of the importance of community-based models
and inspired us to search for similar cases. Moreover, they
have shown own scalable and innovative organizational
forms, adapted to face the challenges of a knowledge society.

All these cases represent community-based organizational

forms, based on collaboration through the sharing of flows of
information and sometimes of material resources. While
traditional organizations are based on a vertical hierarchy that
commands and controls, the Open P2P Communities are
based on a horizontal network in which every participant
commands itself and contributes to control the whole
network. While in the vertical hierarchies the relationships are
defined by power (top-down), in the Open P2P Communities
they are defined by reputation (bottom-up).
The structure is therefore an horizontal reticular one, where
reputation becomes a centripetal force of infuence towards
the other participants. These communities can assume forms
that are localized or virtual; they share the ability of self-
organization during the development of a main activity for the
solution of a specific problem, that neither institutions neither
the market had provided satisfactory solutions.



Their community nature allows the creation of social capital,

that could generate further processes of improvement of the
local dimension, through the connections that they
potentially can bring between short networks (the interest for
the local dimension) with long networks (that involve a wide
number of participants).

06.02 A loose definition, between many

This is therefore the concise definition of an Open P2P
Community. Like every classification, there is the risk of
excessive generalization and therefore to group cases that
represents different things. And as I was approaching to Free
Software, Open Source and P2P for the first time, there could
be some ingenuous statements.

And as one year has passed from the discussion of my thesis,

the definition of an Open P2P Community maybe should be
rethought and redefined. Probably in the future it could be
convenient or necessary to make a distinction between those
cases in which the community risks to be “used” in order to
produce value with an activity, and those cases in which is the
community itself that directs its activity.



But for the moment I think it is better to continue to observe

these phenomena, while they are living and developing,
leaving any expectations of exaustive definitions for the
future. Even so, this definition has been very useful for me, as
it helped me to find a way between the wide number of cases.
Let’s remain, at least for the moment, with a loose and
adaptable definition.

But maybe it’s time to signal others two phenomena (or,

therefore, also categories of definition) that became famous
towards or after the end of my thesis, and that share relations
with the Open P2P Communities. They are Web 2.0 and

My research started from existing cases, with a wide and

flexilbe classification at the beginning, and its point of
departure was the Free Software / Open Source / P2P
phenomenon and its diffusion to others fields. At the time
(March 2005) the term Web 2.0 already existed, but it had not
become so famous (it happened in 2006, with the success of
YouTube) and developed completely. Therefore it seemed to
me more useful to focus on the Free Software / Open Source /
P2P phenomenon. And the Crowdsourcing term was born in
June 2006, when the thesis was already finished.



Therefore, the main reason for the lack of Web 2.0 and
Crowdsourcing inside the thesis is mainly due for a temporal
factor. The interest towards the organizational forms and the
principles developed in the Free Software (and Open Source
and P2P) Communities was born end of the nineties.
However, we had to wait until 2003 for the first awareness of
this possibility, thanks to the Goetz’s article appeared on
Wired12. The organizational methodology of the Open Source
Communities are seen as the right infrastructure for a
knowledge economy, just as the assembly line had been for
the Fordist mass-production economy. The interest for Open
Source / Free Software / P2P organizational forms was born
therefore before the definition of Web 2.013.

Moreover, I think they represent phenomena closely

correlated between each other. Web 1.0 has been developed
by communities, with bottom-up and P2P dynamics, through
sharing and Open Source / Free Software. Therefore it wasn’t
Web 2.0 that introduced these dynamics, but they were
already present since years in the computer science and
programming sciene under the hacker ethic.
12. Goetz T. (2003)
13. For example, Thinkcycle started on March 2000, 4 years before
the first definition of Web 2.0



Web 2.0 represents therefore a phase in which these dynamics

have been widened, reinforced and spread further. Web (1.0,
2.0), Free Software / Open Source and P2P therefore should not
be considered separately. The classification of Open P2P
Communities, can thereforebe applied as well also for Web 2.0
services like YouTube.
Although the classifications of these casesis in constant
development, it is possible to assume for the moment the
partial classification of the Open P2P Communities. In this
way we can collect cases directly inspired from the Free /
Open Source / P2P Software as well the ones that are not
recalled directly (but that share some principles and
organizational formss), are they recent or antecedent cases.
If we want to learn from communities, in order to design with
and for communities, it can be useful to maintain such a
classification (which is a loose one but strongly focused on the
community dimension).

06.03 An Open P2P Communities list (1.1)

Here you can find the list of Open P2P Communities I made
during the development of the thesis (2005 - 2006).
The number of cases has increased remarkablly since then,
especially if we consider those cases that can be classified like
Web 2.0 services and Crowdsourcing; for the moment let’s



consider this directory, later on I will write about new

interesting cases. The cases have been classified by the main
activity these communities develop, gathering participants
and building collaborative networks.

Collaborative networks that reach a critical mass of

Smart Mobs
Collaborative networks that manage informations and
The Global Ideas Bank
Silver Stringers
NASA Mars Clickworkers
Distributed Proofreaders



Collaborative networks that develop scientific research

The International HapMap Project
The Tropical Disease Initiative (TDI)
The Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi)
The SNP Consortium Ltd
Collaborative networks that design
Open Source Green Vehicle (OSGV)
OSCar - The Open Source Car Project
Episodes of collective technological innovations
Solar Roof
Collaborative networks that organize business activities
The Sims


Grameen Bank
Collaborative networks that improve their local dimension
Terra Madre / Slow Food
Open Heatlh
Development Gateway
BBC’s Neighbourhood Gardener
The BBC iCan/Action Network
Self-Help Groups
Honey Bee network
Collaborative networks that help other communities
Sustainable Everyday Project / EMUDE
The New Earth Fund
The Launchpad (Young foundation)

06.04 Open P2P Communities and Participation

I have always said that these Open P2P Communities can self-
organize themselves, and this affirmation should be explained
better now. These communities are created in order to fix a
problem through the development of a collaborative activity.
The social relations can already be present but more often, if
they develop through time, they rise from the development of
the activity. Moreover, we can point out a distinction on the


possible types of participation: there are three ways in which
Open P2P Communities can self-organize. They can self-
organize with:
_a bottom-up participation: a community gather
independently to fix a common problem (for example: Amul).
The community forms in a bottom-up way;
_a top-down participation: a (public or private) service that
allows the formation of a community and bases on it its
operation is offered. Participants operate in order to fulfill the
enterprise's/local institution's goals/work (i.e. the participants
depend from the enterprise/local institution) (for example:
YouTube). The service is offered in a top-down way, and the
participants act consequently;
_a marketplace participation: a (public or private) service that
allows the formation of a community is offered, and the
participants gather in the community. Participants behave
independently, forming relationships between each other in
order to develop their own goals/works (i.e. they behave
independently, in a true peer-to-peer way) (for example: BBC
Action Network). The service is delivered in a top-down way,
but the participants act in a bottom-up way within it.
The fundamental point is: who takes the initiative and looks
for persons in order to form a community? And with which



goals? And which type of relationships, and therefore social

network, it enables? For example: Free Software is usually
bottom-up, Open Source and P2P could be bottom-up or top-
down, Web 2.0 and Crowdsourcing are very often top-down.

Moreover, from this bottom-up and top-down distinction, we

can ask another question: how much these communities are
Open and P2P? Data, informations, processes, results are
accessible in an Open and P2P way? This is a very important
issue and should be studied more.

As a consequence, as designers, we could design for a

community in two ways: offering our professional
capabilities to existing communities, or designing and
developing (public and private) community-based services.

Before we can get to the methodological aspects, let's

consider how a designer can relate to an Open P2P
Community (and therefore towards an Open P2P Design).
How can we design for a community that gathers around a
main collaborative activity? In a few words: through the the
process of co-design of its activity (and the characteristics
that allow it) like a complex collective service.


Activity Theory EN
Open P2P
07 The activity of an Open P2P Service Design
Community and Service Design
07.01 Activity of a community and Activity System
In order to completely understand the characteristics shared
by the Open Peer-to-Peer Communities, it is possible to use a
theory developed for the study of the human activities: the
Activity Theory. Once we understand the activities carried out
by the Open Peer-to-Peer Communities, we can understand
how they develop and behave, and the characteristics that
generate them, since they form from the development of one
or more activity.

The Activity Theory emphasizes the situated nature of the

human action, evidencing that the objectives and the
development of the action, within the general scope of the
activity, are continuously constructed and negotiated
according to the local conditions. The social mediation that
lays at the base of the activity translates itself in a continuous
process of learning and creation of knowledge.
In the Activity Theory, the Activity System (picture 01)
represents the unit of analysis for the study of the human
behavior, leading to a “conceptual map” that evidences the
main places around which the human cognition is distributed



and through which the human action is mediated. The model

of the Activity System, the unit of the dynamic analysis of the
human activity, describes the main elements through which
the human action is mediated, i.e. the artifacts (the
instrumental mediation) and the community (social
mediation) with which the subject, an individual or a
collective one, interacts according to rules, implicit or explicit
ones, and a division of labor, i.e. the organization of roles and

The Activity System is an useful instrument to describe

human actions, and can be used at different scales: the
activity of one single person, of a group, of a community, of a
society. Moreover, the single human action is not perceived
like a discreet and isolated unit, but it receives a meaning
from being part of a collective Activity System socially and
historically generated; in its turn the individual action
contributes in a bottom-up way to the continuous creation
and reproduction of the Activity System.

The Activity System represents then a systemic instrument of

analysis of the complexity of the human activities. It is not a
static truth, but it is in continuous movement and
transformation as the single elements evolve and as the
activity is negotiated over time.



These transformations are due to the fact that the activities

are not isolated units, but are more like nodes inside networks
formed of other interconnected Activity Systems. In fact, an
Activity System is not isolated, but interacts with a network
of other Activity Systems.

mediating artifacts

subject object outcome

rules community division of labor

Picture 01. Activity System (Source: Sangiorgi D. (2004))

07.02 Activity and the structure of the Open Peer-

to-Peer Communities
Therefore the Activity Theory, through the model of the
Activity System, can be used in order to analyze and to
describe the behavior of the Open Peer-to-Peer Communities.



Given the particular nature of these Communities, we should

add the description of the structure of the community to this
model. The Open Peer-to-Peer Communities in fact are not
characterized by hierarchies, but that does not mean that
there are no strong positions. But as an hierarchy relies on
power (a top-down relationship), an Open Peer-to-Peer
Community relies on reputation (a bottom-up relationship),
that show the direction and the actions that could be more
interesting to the community, giving place to an horizontal
network-based layered structure.

Many researchers14 have noted that the Open Source

Communities (and therefore also the Open Peer-to-Peer
Communities) organize themselves with an horizontal
structure characterized by a gravitational center around which
there is a “gravitational force” that moves the participants
towards the center or outside the community: this force is
reputation15 and not power. We have then an horizontal (not
a hierarchy) network-based organizational form, similar to the
one found by Lave and Wenger16 in the Communities of
Practice and called Legitimate Peripheral Participation (LPP).
14. Crowston K., Howison J. (2005); Madanmohan T.R. (2002);
Nakakoji K., Yamamoto Y., Nishinaka Y., Kishida K., Ye Y. (2002)
15. Watson A. (2005)
16. Lave J., Wenger E. (1991)



Therefore, the Open Peer-to-Peer Communities have a radial

structure, where there are different levels, characterized by a
different amount of reputation and engagement.
A determined role can correspond to a determined level (one
role can be accessed only if in possession of one determined
amount of reputation), or a same role can be seen with a
centripetal structure based on the reputation (there are
several levels of reputation inside of the role, characterized by
different amount of engagement and different duties).
It is therefore useful to reason in terms of reputation and
engagement levels: going towards the center the participants
increase their reputation and engagement. They move
towards the center as their engagement increases their
reputation, and they increase their engagement in order to
maintain or to increase their own reputation. In this way we
have a positive feedback that pushes the participants to
engage with crescent intensity.

07.03 Open Peer-to-Peer Communities described

with an Activity System
Using an Activity System (and integrating it with a description
of the reputations levels found in the community) it is
possible therefore to describe such communities (table 01).



BBC Action Network

to give instruments and informations useful to citizens
for organizing campaigns of public pressure in order to
improve their local conditions
BBC, citizens who wish to resolve some local problems,
local institutions
useful informations for the organization of campaigns of
public pressure
to enable citizens citizens who wish it to organize
campaigns of public pressure in order to inform society
about local problems
website (information, personal space for every citizen,
search engine of other citizens)
don’t carry out political campaigns or commercial ones,
don’t insult
British citizens, local institutions

webmaster, coordinator of campaigns, organizer of

division of
group, public relation, coordination of the new
labor (roles)
members, treasurer, mentor
core group: BBC
active participants: citizens trying to organize campaigns
peripheral participants: citizens in search of campaigns
already formed

Table 01: Example of one Open Peer-to-Peer Community described through an

Activity System (Source: Menichinelli 2006)



07.04 Activity Systems and Service Design

The main importance of the activity, in an Open Peer-to-Peer
Community, can give a useful role to the designer, thanks to
some reflections carried out in the service design field, based
around the study of the services as interactions before and the
study of the services as interactions between Activity Systems
later. A service in fact can be seen in many ways: like a
performance, a process and an interaction, visions that bring
to light its nature of human action and therefore of
intangibility. If we look at them as interactions, their design
therefore becomes traditionally the design of the interactions
that occur between a customer and the company, subdivided
in front office (the part of the agency with which the customer
interacts) and back office (with which the customer does not

Interactions therefore as the place of encounter between the

customer and the company, the fundamental point in order to
understand the quality of the service (service encounter), and
where therefore the designer should address its attention.
According to Pacenti17, the most important thing in the
strategic design of a service is in fact the “platform of
interaction” between the service and the customer.

17. Pacenti E. (1992/1993), Pacenti E. (1998)



The platform of the interaction is the context (the architecture

of the system) where the interaction between service and
customers finds its place. In the construction of the platform
we have the values proposed by the company, (materialized in
its offer), and the co-production of such values by the
customer, that participates with his engagement, knowledge
and resources. The platform of interaction is the place where
the offer of the service and the participation of the customers
meet within a shared context of values.

Considering services as interactions, we can find another

study that can be really useful for designing for an Open Peer-
to-Peer Community: Daniela Sangiorgi18 has connected service
design with the Activity Theory, resolving a lack of an
interpretation model of the service that holds in consideration
its main elements that influence the perception and the
behavior of the participants to the interaction. An
interpretation model that can be used to consider high social
complexity that characterizes a service.

Therefore, a service can be described as an activity formed of a

sequence of service encounters (or interactions), that can be
described as systems of situated actions co-produced in the

18. Sangiorgi D. (2004)



encounter between the customer’s Activity System and the

enterprise’s Activity System (picture 02) (or, more in general
terms, between all the participants of the service).
The activity, therefore, can be seen like a network of
interactions between participants, and can be considered as
a service, and as such can be designed. In fact a service is
made of a network of interactions between several
participants, which assume the roles deriving from the
division of labor.


subject object shared object subject

rules rules
community division oflabor division oflabor community

Picture 02. Interaction between Activity Systems (Source Sangiorgi D. (2004))



For service design, therefore, the design object coincides with

the same Activity System, that becomes the object of the
project, but also an analysis and a design tool.
We may think therefore that we can “design” the Open Peer-
to-Peer Communities “designing” their activity. In reality it is
still necessary to consider two aspects before we are able to
reach an appropriated methodology, holding corretly in
consideration the complexity of a community and of a project
directed to it.
Is it possible “to design” a community? Which of its
characteristics can we design?


Activity Theory EN
Platform Open P2P
08 Open P2P Communities and the Service Design
What can we “design” in a community?
We cannot think about designing the relationships and the
complexity of a community (which are the features that make
it a community). The disciplines that traditionally have been
interested in communities (architecture, urban planning, web
design) are not oriented to design the relationships but the
characteristics that, once realized, enable and support the
birth and the development of the relationships. The necessary
infrastructure for the relationships, their platform.

It is convenient therefore to talk about a platform19 as the

object of the design process. It is possible to design and to
supply those fundamental conditions that, shared inside the
social networks of the participants, act as an infrastructure
to the emergence of the community and its characteristic
A platform is present (and necessary) every time a community
forms deriving from the interactions between a high number
of agents. As it is part of the activty, the platform can
therefore be described through the Activity Systems.

19. Menichinelli M. (2006)



The platform consists in a system of artifacts (materials,

cognitive and communication ones), rules and division of
labor (picture 03), which make possible the development and
practice of the collective activity. As it is shared between the
participants, it has a reticular and dynamic nature (pictures
04, 05).

If the platform is necessary for processes that demand an

interaction between a high number of agents, then also the
design methodology will demand a platform for being carried
out. The platform exists previously to the design process, that
has the goal of improving it in a determined direction, that
comes from a design decision. It is therefore necessary, at the
beginnig of the design process, to analyze the existing
platform for the collective discussion; thanks to it is possible
to establish a contact with the participants. The designers, in
fact, enter in the wider design community: a community
whose activity is an open and peer-to-peer design.

But how the designer’s role change when he/she enters in a

wider design community?




subject object

rules community division of labor

Picture 03. The Platform, described through an Activity System

(Source: Menichinelli M. (2006))



Picture 04. The Platform is distributed in the social network

(Source: Menichinelli M. (2006))



Picture 05. Distributed nature of the Platform (Source: Menichinelli M. (2006))




Open P2P Complexity EN
Communities Enabler

09 Open P2P Design: the designer as Design

an enabler Methodology
Once we define the platform, it is possible to understand Institutions
what, effectively, a designer can design for an Open Peer-to-
Peer community. It still remains to define how such a project
can be developed considering the complexity of a community.
We should try therefore to define a design methodology (or at
least some guidelines) that can improve the open and peer-to-
peer participation of the community and its complexity.
A community is a complex system, and there is the need of a
design methodology able to face its complexity without
reducing it. As we have seen before, Open Peer-to-Peer
organizational forms seem promising in supplying greater
probabilities to face complex problems and to elaborate
complex artifacts. That happens just thanks to their own
intrinsic complexity: the complexity of the project reflects the
complexity of the community, and both strengthen each
other. Whe we design an activity, the community itself (a
complex system) designs a complex project collectively (its
own organization and the necessary conditions).
Moreover, a project dedicated to a community must consider
the characteristics of the context in which it lives, especially
the territorial characteristics that become resources once the
community realize their importance.



This is an ulterior reason for giving it a greater opportunity of

direct participation to the design process, as a community can
recognize the usable resources better than others. This is
therefore a design approach that take advantage of the
participation of a potentially elevated number of participants,
through a complex process characterized by its specific path
(path dependency), oriented to several the levels of interaction:
between participants, participants and community,
community and another community, communities and
institutions, community and society. We should therefore
adopt a design approach based on participation, in order to
use the knowledge of the participants to getter better results.

We can therefore say that a project directed to an Open Peer-

to-Peer community should be itself Open Peer-to-Peer, based
on the participation of the community to the design process
(open: open to the participation), to whose members is
recognized an equal and active role (peer-to-peer: the
acknowledgment of other people’s competences and
expertise). An Open Peer-to-Peer design process therefore
becomes a co-design process, where designer and participants
collaborate in a wider design community (which is a
collective intelligence). The designer therefore assumes a
specific role in the projects directed to Open Peer-to-Peer



Thanks to his/her competences, a designer can supply the

instruments for self-organization and the optimal conditions
for an activity to take form, assuming a role of an enabler and
not of a provider (or supplier of defined solutions). No more a
simple supplier of his/her own creativity, but an enabler of
distributed creativity. No more a simple design process that
produces definitive solutions, but a design process that
support communities so that they can develop appropriate
solutions to their own needs and characteristics.
We can see that the same shift is happening in the local
institutions too, where local government is transforming
itself into governance. A redefinition of the role of the local
institution that becomes an enabler of the participation and
the coordination between public entities and private and
social ones, and not a provider of rules and services20.

A designer can be an enabler naturally, since his/her

competences make him/her able to establish connections
between customers and enterprises, therefore mediating
between different interests. Thanks to his/her abilities to
visualize in advance, a designer can at the same time manage
multiple and discordant interests, remembering the

20. Vicari Haddock S. (2004)



advantages that derive from a collective collaboration.

Moreover, an enabler should supply support to reach the self-
organization of the members in the short term, avoiding to
render them depending on him/her in the long term. The goal
of a designer is therefore the social enabler of the
development of communities; the role that Linus Torvalds
chose to assume in the development of Linux, avoiding the
more traditional one of designer-provider21.

21. Kuwabara K. (2000)


Open Hardware Business/Service Community-based Services EN
Open Source Free Software Mobile
Service Design
examples of an Open and P2P Co-creation
10 First
Design Product Design
In order to see how an Open P2P methodology has real and
especially topical potentials for application, we can point out
some first cases of design projects based on strategies of Technology
openness and user involvement in the project and usage stage
of the product/service offered . These projects are the Open
Health project developed by the design team RED (the first in
chronological order, and even today one of the most
innovative), the Openmoko mobile and the VIA OpenBook
subnotebook. These three cases offer first reflections and
attempts of Co-created Service Design, Open Design and Open
Hardware initiatives: cases that share openness of the project
through peer-to-peer dynamics and community building.

The goal here is not to present a complete list of cases and

their analysis, but to provide a starting point for discussion, a
proof of the validity of the Open P2P methodology and its
integration into the world of design. Before the presentation
of the individual cases, we can notice how they present open
or p2p dynamics, but never both at the same time. Openmoko
and VIA OpenBook are projects whose source codes were
opened, but where the building of p2p dynamics was not
explicitly sought (they are Open Design projects): they were



left to develop on their own. The Open Health project instead

aimed at facilitating the emergence of p2p dynamics (P2P
Design), but the project is not open (it was so only in a short
period of confrontation during its initial development).
An Open P2P project instead, covers both the opening of the
project, of its source code, and the facilitation of the
emergence of p2p dynamics: is not only about the publication
of a code, but about the facilitation of a social system through
the use of a project code. In the next chapter the proposal for
a methodology for an Open P2P Design will be presented more
in detail.
10.01 Co-created Service Design: RED's Open Health
Open Health is one of the first example of P2P-inspired
Design. After a careful reflection, Hilary Cottam and Charles
Leadbeater developed this experimental project of reform of
public services within the RED design unit of the British
Design Council, which, during its lifetime, proposed new
approaches to economic and social problems through
innovative uses of design.
During its existence, RED eveloped its projects explicitly
relying on the principles developed by the movement of Open
Source software, i.e. developing concepts very rapidly and
making them questionable even outside the division.



The approaches currently used for the reform of public

services are demonstrating their limits. By maintaining a
hierarchical structure and institutionalized, top-down, they
can do little in solving complex problems, such as the growth
of chronic diseases or other health problems, which could be
solved simply by encouraging different behaviour and lifestyles.
The new proposed approach leads to the development of
radical innovations, not incremental ones: new public services
must be co-created with end-users. To do so we must render
movable the resources, know-how, actions and experts so that
they are distributed in local communities, rather than locate
them only within the institutions, even if local.
These distributed resources can be more effective if used
collaboratively through the sharing of ideas, providing mutual
support and giving voice to the needs of citizens.
The development of new answers requires a creativity
widespread in society and the activation of networks of
knowledge and resources outside the public institutions.

These reflections also cross with the situation of the health

sector, where it is important to place the emphasis on
community because it is now evident that many chronic
diseases are strongly linked to practice and judgement that
society exerts on individuals. It is therefore necessary to
develop a community of co-creation, as they are defined by



Cottam and Leadbeater, i.e. a community of users and

professionals who work using all the resources already
existing in innovative ways, based on a common platform that
makes possible the activity of many participants without
having the need for an hierarchy of control. Communities that
are similar in some characteristics to the community of Open
Source software, even if their activity depends on the
characteristics of all stakeholders of the health system.
The prevention and cure of chronic diseases can therefore also
occur in the homes if we give people advice, technologies and
services, particularly through support groups: the knowledge,
skills and experience spread between people allow the
construction of a network of relationships and collaborations.

Solutions to deal with unhealthy lifestyles will be created only

if a system of all actors, where resources, knowledge, advice
and funding will be distributed outside of public institutions,
between communities and individual citizens. In this way the
same citizens and communities will be themselves
protagonists in the elaboration of collective solutions careful
to local conditions.
Therefore we must distribute knowledge now found only
within the institutions, use the resources that already some
people have them become agents for the provision of support
to other citizens (peer-to-peer).



With these considerations in mind, the RED division developed

two projects in collaboration with two localities, Kent and
Bolton, as prototypes for testing future services which are not
yet ready for introduction throughout the whole country.
In the city of Kent the problem addressed was of an ageing
population, while in the city of Bolton was addressed the issue
of management of chronic diseases, in this case diabetes.
The projects were developed in six months by the RED design
team that consisted of designers, doctors, economists,
anthropologists and politics experts, in collaboration with
professionals, local services employees and residents of the
two localities.
The problem addressed in the city of Kent was to encourage
people (initially aged between 50 and 70 years) to play physical
activities in order to reduce the chances of problems related
to old age, such as fractures, osteoporosis, diabetes, etc..
The design team developed Activmobs, a service aimed at
providing support for people who want to maintain their good
state of health while carrying out physical activities and
following their inclinations. A mob is formed by a group of
acquaintances who, together, play a regular physical activity
(such as gardening or walking with the dog).
The service, whose communicative artefacts are a magazine
and a website, allows the self-organization of the activities by



the mob, and their networking with trainers and resources.

The magazine, the website, mob groups, the roles of "trainers"
and "motivators" are part of the service system co-designed
and co-managed by citizens and professionals.

A group already formed can register through the website,

choose its activities and build a timetable for the conduct.
Through the website, individuals can look for mobs in their
area, mobs looking for participants can reach a minimum
number of participants or suggest an activity to form a mob
(also taking inspiration from a special site section that gives
advices and examples).
When one of these mobs is formed, its founder (motivator)
receives a special coupon, which can be used to cover the
costs of organizing the mob or to attend courses to become a
trainer for mobs. The trainers are chosen after an interview,
and can help the mobs to choose their activities, to improve
their effectiveness for the physical health, and help setting
targets to be achieved through the activity, which will be
rewarded. Targets may be based on the presence of
participants, on a space distribution, on a time distribution or
on a score achieved.
The participants can also choose individual goals, and once all
components of the mob have achieved them, the whole mob
earns a reward. In this way the components of the mob



encourage each other in order to achieve the objectives, just

as it happens in the microcredit services developed by the
Grameen Bank.
The magazine show ideas, interviews with mobs, list of
existing mobs and recommendations, awards, instructions on
how to organize the mob, interviews to trainers and
motivators, list of trainers divided by area, list of facilities that
can be used and so on. The website shows all the information
on the magazine, and also allows the mob to self-organize
themselves keeping in contact and looking over personal and
collective progress. The members of the mob compile fact
sheets every three months on the website in order to monitor
their progress, receiving in return a score and coupon for
activities within the mob or for their family.

In the second project, developed in the town of Bolton, the

RED design team addressed patients suffering from diabetes,
about one every ten families. In this case the team proposed a
co-created service based on the encounter of top-down and
bottom-up initiatives for the distribution of resources and to
encourage patients to follow more healthy lifestyles.
The service developed tries to provide an interface between
citizens suffering from diabetes, so that they can support each
other through peer-to-peer dynamics, and between them and
doctors, encouraging the sharing of their knowledge.


The RED design team developed a service based on two
approaches to resolve the problem. The first concerns the
development of a set of cards (Agenda cards) that patients and
physicians use during their meetings to improve their
communication, because patients are not always able to
communicate their feelings about diabetes. The advantage of
cards is the easy and short prototyping and testing time, using
the feedback of the participants to direct the further
development of the project.
The second approach consists in a consulting service called
Me2Coach Service, where people with a long experience of
living with the disease play the role of coaches of people
affected by the problem only recently, who knows what
changes are to be undertaken but are not quite willing to act
yet. The coaches, with their long experience, provide valuable
advices outside the public health service, thus constituting a
not hierarchical service where participants are at the same
level and have the same problems: on a peer-to-peer basis.

10.02 Open Design, Open Source Software and Open

Hardware: Openmoko
The case of Openmoko plays a crucial role here, because it
represents the most complete case of the first mass product
completely open source. Therefore, this is the first example of



a real Open Design, not tied to individual experiments or niche

markets (albeit very important): the first example of how open
source philosophy can be adopted not only in areas different
from programming and production of knowledge, but also in a
production of physical goods, rival goods.
It's the Openmoko organization, a project aimed at designing
a completely open source smartphone, first for its software,
and now also for its hardware and design. We can say that
this is the first, true, open source mass product design, as the
previous examples have not pursued completely the Open
Source philosophy, or because they have had limited results,
or, lastly, because the context was not ready for such
Thinkcycle, which is the first and most developed Open
Design example (at least so far), was an experiment aimed at
niche markets, and for this reason should deserve even more
importance because it was aimed at helping disadvantaged
contexts, but still limited in the results and in influence on the
world of design as too ahead of the spread of Open Source
awareness in society. Ronen Kadushin's initiative, although
worthy, represents only a solitary experiment without broad
appeal and development. Martí Guixé's proposal takes the
Open Source just as a metaphor and try to adopt some of its
collateral features, i.e. that he looks for certain aspects of

open source software that he can apply to products too, but
in substance this is not Open Design.
The Openmoko initiative (in its first incarnation, Neo1973,
produced by FIC) is so important because the adoption of the
Open Source philosophy is not an experiment but a real
initiative. We have gone beyond the stage of inspiration and
experimentation for Open Design, to a stage where it is put
into practice by big companies too. Of course,
experimentation is not over and should be pursued further,
but now we are talking about a product that the general
public will see in stores and that is in competition with the
most expected product of the moment, the Apple iPhone.
And this referring to the freedom that this choice of opening
may give the user, just like the philosophy of the Free
Software: "If you can’t open it, you don’t own it. Our first key
unlocked the software, unleashing the community to recraft the
code. Now, we free the case and share the keys to Industrial
Design. Developers who want to re-craft the case are set free".
It is by no coincidence that we can buy an advanced version,
bearing all that is needed to open and edit the phone,
enabling its hacking in order to customize and learn from it at
the same time. The distribution of the design files is therefore
a logical consequence; the files (IGES, STEP, ProE), have been
published under a Creative Commons ShareAlike license.


Picture 06. Openmoko (Source:



Picture 07. Openmoko (Source:



Picture 08. Openmoko, Open Source Software (Source:



Picture 09. Openmoko, Open Hardware (Source:



Picture 10. Openmoko, Open Design (Source:



The fact that a mobile phone of new generation, a

smartphone, is the first true open source product, makes the
event even more important, because mobile phones represent
a huge potential for the development of community-based
collaborative services. A tool that will enable us in the future
to exploit, enhance and more easily spread the collective
intelligence, because it has the ability to further break down
the barriers of the services, as many more people have access
to mobile phones and feel more comfortable with them than
with computers and the World Wide Web.
Therefore, with an Open P2P design methodology we could
design with/for a community, mobile phones, their software
and their services, according to their specific needs. We are
then able to co-design with a community their collaborative
services and the tools that allow their deployment, even for
small contexts.
10.03 Open Design and Open Hardware: VIA OpenBook
After the first example of a real Open Design mass product, we
have now another example like this, showing us how Open
Business strategies are already understood and spread now.
VIA Technologies, the world's largest independent
manufacturer of motherboard chipsets, from Taiwan,
published the CAD files of his last product: VIA OpenBook.


Picture 11. VIA OpenBook (Source:



Picture 12. VIA OpenBook (Source:



The CAD files of this subnotebook are available under a

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
There are many reasons behind such strategies, but mainly
two reasons are the most probable here. First, this move is a
way to lay the foundation basis for the development of an
hackers/modifiers/suppliers/manufacturers ecosystem around
the product. Second, this is a strategic move in the
subnotebook market, which is rising in these months (just see
the Asus eeePC phenomenon). Indeed, an open design product
gives more probabilities that innovation and competition will
eventually shift in other areas: no more in the manufacturing
of a subnotebook but in the construction of an open peer-to-
peer ecosystem of users and enterprises.

Moreover, VIA is mainly a computer components

manufacturer, not a notebook one: everyone could
manufacture an OpenBook, but will most probably end using
(and therefore buying) VIA's chipsets and motherboards.
Releasing the "source code" of an open design product brings
a positive side-effect that makes a little step further toward
environmental sustainability. Open design products can be
manufactured locally, avoiding therefore the need for long
travel for the finished goods (unfortunately it is not the same
for the raw materials) and fossil fuels consumption and CO2.



And as we know everything about this product (it is open) we

can manufacture it and repair it in such a way it will last
longer than other products and then there will be less need to
change it frequently. Sure, these are not great steps toward
sustainability, but we should consider these side-effects too
for an open and sustainable business.

The openness of VIA OpenBook is considerably very limited

(CAD files relate solely to the plastic shell, while hardware and
its related software remain closed), especially if we compare it
to the Openmoko initiative. Its importance lays therefore in
being another proof that Open Design and Open Hardware
products are a feasible business and that we should pay
attention to the level of openness adopted. Here is an early
analysis that Michel Bauwens of the P2P Foundation wrote
about Open Hardware:
Closed Hardware: is any hardware for which the creator of the
hardware will not release information on how to make normal
use of the hardware, in such a way that that information may be
freely shared with others. A sure sign of closed hardware is
requiring the signing of an NDA to receive documentation on how
to make use of a device.

Open Interface: In the case of Open Interface hardware, all the



documentation on how to make a piece of hardware perform the

function for which it is designed is available. In the case of
computer hardware, this means that all the information
necessary to produce fully functional drivers is available. This is
the minimum level of openness that makes hardware useful to the
open software community. Surprisingly, large amounts of
integrated circuits fall into this category. Any device for which you
can get a complete data sheet from the manufacturer, with no
limitations on sharing the data contained within, meets the Open
Interface definition.

Open Design: Open Design hardware is hardware in which enough

detailed documentation is provided that a functionally compatible
device could be created by a third party. It is not at all uncommon
for the programmer’s guides for a micro controller to have
complete instruction encoding formats, memory maps, block
diagrams of the processor core, and other technical details that
would make it possible to reproduce a compatible micro
controller. Open Design hardware allows you to see what was
implemented and what it should do, but still keeps the finer
details of how it was implemented closed.

Open Implementation: Hardware for which the complete bill of

materials necessary to construct the device is available fall into
the category of Open Implementation. In the realm of computer



chips, this means the hardware definition language description of

the device is available. For a circuit board, this would include the
schematic. Everything needed to reproduce an exact copy of a
device is available. This is the hardware parallel to the concept of
open source software. The debate between ‘open’ and ‘free’ (libre)
that exists in the software space exists for hardware as well. In
this regard, the only hardware that can truly be claimed to be
free, in the same manner that the Free Software Foundation
defines free, is that which falls into the Open Implementation
category. Unfortunately, unlike software, an idea and the desire
to produce a hardware device that is free and open is not
sufficient. Certainly in the semiconductor space, the ability to do
so is beyond the individual and in most cases, beyond even a
reasonably equipped development group.


Complexity EN
Self-organization Open P2P Enabler
Communities Platform
11 First guidelines for an Open P2P
Social Network
Unlike a traditional, linear, design process, Open Peer-to-Peer Analysis
Design is non-linear and characterized by multiple parallell
processes because of the large number of agents and their Community
interactions. An Open Peer-to-Peer design process thus
provides the basis for developing more parallel projects, an
ecosystem of designer agents with a memetic evolution of
the projects that are more “suitable” to the community,
whose selection will lead to better results.

An Open Peer-to-Peer design process is characterized by

openness and sharing of the project (the source code, in the
software) of the platform and of the activities that it allows
once provided to the community by the designers.
The community will test and modify it several times and in
several directions (in the software, compiling the binary
code), until a satisfactory version is reached (the stable
version of the software) and self-organization is ensured.
The source code of the project (community source code)
consists of tools coming from service design, with the
introduction of a description of the reputation levels within
the community, the license that governes cooperation and the



access to the results, a social network map able to show

weaknesses and strengths in the community. The source code
is accessible to all participants, who are testing it with
increasing level of reality (the platform is gradually built
during this phase) reporting to the design community any
errors (bugs, in the software) present. The higher the number
of participants, the greater the chance that errors are detected
and corrected.

During the design process and at its end, the community will
self-organize modifying the project if necessary, as far as
possible; it is this ability to self-organize and improve the local
conditions that makes the communities alive and interesting.
Participation in this design process is open and equal, but is
also governed by two principles: self-selection and reputation,
which give place to different levels of participation in the
various design phases, according to the possession of
knowledge needed in each project phase. The different phases
of the design process, therefore, require different levels of
participation and therefore commitment and visibility of the
participants. These different levels give place to different
typical phases (similar to some phases of the community of
practice) of the life of the communities: potential, coalescing,
stable, self-organization and expansion, decline (picture 13).



11.01 Analysis
The project begins with an analysis of the participants, in
order to understand the existing and therefore usable
resources, limitations, critical points. Through the analysis,
the designers begin to know the participants, prefiguring
which features the community’s activity could have in the
future. The objective of this phase is to define the objectives
and the strategy on which the concept of the community’s
activity will be build. The analysis, carried out through
ethnographic investigation and social networks analysis, will
cover the platform, the characteristics of the individual
participants if possible, as well as existing activities.

11.02 Concept
Once the analysis of the participants, of their activities and
their social networks is done, a first concept of the
community’s activity (and its platform) is developed. The
designers then develop an initial version (we might say the
0.0.1 version) of the project of the activity/platform, formalized
in the community source code.
10.03 Parallel co-design / test / setting-up

11.03 Parallel co-design / test / setting-up

Once developed, the concept is shown to the participants and



collectively discussed. Now begins a phase of co-design of the

activity/platform, characterized by steady growth of
commitment, energy and visibility from the participants.
At this stage, the concept of activity is developed
collaboratively to get a functioning project, a “stable” source
code (version 1.0).
The participants test the community source code of the
community simulating the activity, in order to understand
what are the weaknesses, errors (bugs in the community
source code). The source code is subjected to a peer-review
process, in which both the designers (who observe the
simulation) and the participants report errors and the
necessary changes. Once a bug is identified the source code is
modified and again a testing begins with the new code.

In order to simulate the activity, participants must share the

conditions necessary to carry out the activity, represented by
the platform. Rules and roles should be developed and
adopted, and the artifacts that are not already present will be
built or bought. This means that along with the continuation
of the co-design / test process, the platform is implemented
and when the project reaches the stable version, the
participants can begin the regular activity, strengthening then
the sense of community. Once the co-design / test ends, the
project will already be done, there are no phases of production



nor execution. As in software, then the source code (the

project) gives place to the binary code (the activity done by
the participants).

11.04 Self-organization
After the first “stable version” (1.0.0) of the source code is
reached, the community will be largely formed: during the
simulation / activity new social relationships will have formed.
A stable version of the source code means that it can be
“compiled” (ie, done) and used by anyone without the
possibility of critical errors. At this stage, therefore, the
community is able to carry out the activity and self-organize
without the contribution of the designer: if his role was that
of a facilitator (enabler), now the community is able to act
successfully alone.

At this point, ideally, the role of the designer is not needed

anymore; however, the community will always need its
contribution in the future: the designer has always knowledge
and expertise useful to provide support to the community in
response to changes in the outside world. Also, if the
community activity is a design one, the desinger’s capabilities
make them important in the community, and they will
continue to be part of also during the self-organization phase.



energy and

potential coalescing stable


individual participants

raise of analysis co-design /

social test /
people with awareness the minimum construction
the same critical mass
interests first dicussions of participants
meet each and proposals concept
is reached communication
other about common
problems participants
start to gather concept design
decision to
form a community



self-organization and expansion decline

communities networks

single communities


stable version

Picture 13. Open Peer-to-Peer Design timeline (Source: Menichinelli M. (2006))



analysis concept concept
design communication






Picture 14. Open Peer-to-Peer Design participation matrix




co-design / test

(Source: Menichinelli M. (2006))



These observations represent therefore an initial proposal (1.1)

for an Open Peer-to-Peer design guidelines, in a broader
process of studying a comprehensive methodology.

And then, what are the future opportunities and directions for
the application and study of these design guidelines?,9171,1569514,00.html


Design Research EN
Bottom of the Pyramid Innovation
Design Methodology Local Services Business/Service

12 Future development for Open P2P Knowledge

Design Economy

These Open Peer-to-Peer design steps should be considered

more as guidelines than a complete methodology: we should
apply them, test them, study them more (as in research as in
And this is the right time to study and test these participative
practices. We can say that there have been two cases that
show a change in how society perceive this kind of
participation: Times’ decision to choose Web 2.0 users as
person of the year, and the Nobel Peace prize awarded to
Muhammad Yunus for inventing micro-credit services (this
kind of service is not related to Open Source and Peer-to-Peer,
but is based on communities and activities that are open and
peer-to-peer as well).

It is now possible to say where Open Peer-to-Peer guidelines

can be applied and studied.

12.01 Design and research directions

There are four main directions where Open Peer-to-Peer
guidelines could be applied and studied:



01. improve local conditions

Opportunities for projects related to specific local dimensions
are increasing visibly, and therefore an Open Peer-to-Peer
design methodology is very interesting, because it offers more
chances of success in involving local communities and in
addressing complex projects.

02. develop/deliver commercial/non-profit community-based

The importance of involving active users, not as single
individuals anymore but as a community, is gaining consensus
both for business activities and non-profit or institutional
ones. An Open Peer-to-Peer methodology can be used here as
it allows community involvement giving it a real active and
peer-to-peer role in creating content and developing projects.

03. organize complex design processes based on participation

The Open Source organizational forms / design methodologies
have proved with Linux to be able to develop complex projects
in a relatively short time through an open and equal
participation. The Open Peer-to-Peer Open methodology has
been developed from them, and therefore can be applied to
projects where there is awareness of its complexity (and need
for a relatively quick solution).



4. design for contexts with scarce resources or economic

return probabilities
Thanks to their ability to involve participants beyond the more
restricted logical market, Open Peer-to-Peer communities can
find an application in disadvantaged contexts too. It is difficult
to develop/deliver product/service systems to countries and
markets characterized by scarce resources (or poor prospects
for profit), but there are now economic strategies that study
this: the Bottom of the Pyramid ones22. An Open Peer-to-Peer
methodology can be applied in these strategies because it
allows the development of projects based on a community of
volunteers (thereby reducing the economic resources
necessary), and because it can involve local communities in all
these contexts inside the design process (succeeding to get
projects suited to specific socio-cultural contexts). And it can
develop and provide product/service systems that seeks to
reconstitute/strengthen the social fabric, and not
product/service offering unsustainable lifestyles both
environmentally and socially.

12.02 A research for a social knowledge discipline

For a design discipline that begins to take an interest not only

22. Prahalad C.K. (2004)



in technological innovation but also in social innovation, the

Open Peer-to-Peer attitude can offer useful elements and
many possible directions of research. So far, most of the
interest towards the Open Peer-to-Peer attitude has been
revolved around the organization of scientific research or
entertainment services. It is possible too to study also other
areas where it is possible to develop Open Peer-to-Peer
community-based services (and hence economic activity and
business). There is a potentially vast and promising field: all
the cases specifically linked to the social dimension, and
therefore public services, non-profit organizations and
strategies that may belong to the commercial sector but
linked to the Bottom of the Pyramid strategies.

For example, in the case of public services, the eGovernement

strategies implemented so far (and, in general, the reform
strategies of public services) have not reached a large number
of people and the desired outcomes. This is the reason why
the introduction of the Open Peer-to-Peer methodology is
possible, as it provides an active role of users in the co-
creation and delivery of services. An introduction that
proposes the Open Peer-to-Peer communities and attitude as
useful not only at the operational level but also at the
strategic level, where local institutions assume the role of
their facilitators.


With the shift from local government to governance, local
institutions are becoming facilitators of participation (of both
civil society and the economy sector). In particular, Charles
Leadbeater and Hilary Cottam23 and the Demos think-tank ,
for example, are moving in this direction.
Fields of application of this attitude and its organizational
forms are therefore wide; the attention to the “social side”
has two advantages. The first is that we work in an
environment suitable for the introduction of this attitude (for
the affinity to the participatory and collaborative dimension,
and the need to solve real unaddressed problems). The second
consists in the possibility of studying the social dimension of
an Open Peer-to-Peer project, something this context can offer
more than others.
There are many critical aspects in the relationship between
design and the Open Peer-to-Peer attitude that could be
studied. Here there are the most important ones:
How can design relate with the Open Peer-to-Peer attitude?
The Open Peer-to-Peer attitude is a recent and evolving one,
and brings with it new values and new strategies; therefore it
is necessary to study this attitude in depth, and also study
how the discipline of design can relate to it.

23. Cottam H., Leadbeater C. (2006)



And then how the role of the designer, the design process and
the object of the project change.

How does design relate with these Open Peer-to-Peer

Communities and their local dimension?
We should not forget that these Open Peer-to-Peer
communities have their own local dimension (even if they are
distributed). And the relationship with the local dimension is
one of the latest trends that can be found in Web 2.0 services.
Luckily, the design discipline is studying how to relate with
the local dimension since several years.

How does design relate with the knowledge produced and

shared within a community?
Knowledge and its sharing (or not) is a tricky issue and
currently of great interest and the subject of debates and
reflections. In this case, we should understand how to manage
knowledge both within the design discipline and both within
communities characterized by an Open Peer-to-Peer attitude.

How does design relate with the complexity of a community?

A community is an organizational form with an high degree of
complexity, and this is intuitive. Nevertheless, some studies on
Open Peer-to-Peer organizational forms showed how they
have a high complexity and the ability to improve it in solving



complex problems (a capability that the other disciplines are

looking with interest now). But the concepts related to the
complexity and the their relationship with design are a recent
phenomena, which require deeper researches.

How does design relate with the relationship between

market economies and gift economies?
These Open Peer-to-Peer communities present different forms
of economic organization, that lays between the market
economy and the gift economy. This characteristic should be
studied in depth to understand the extent to which they can
survive in an different economic environment, and the extent
to which this characteristic can be extended in society,
through the contact with other communities.

The research and implementation of this Open Peer-to-Peer

attitude within the design discipline can bring new
opportunities both to the design practice and the design
research. And introducing an attitude that has at its center the
collective construction and sharing of knowledge can make a
further step in the configuration of design as a knowledge
discipline for a knowledge society.







Augé M., (1992), Non-Lieux, introduction à une anthropologie

de la surmodernité, Le Seuil

Cottam H., Leadbeater C., (2004), RED PAPER 01 HEALTH: Co-

creating Services, Design Council
Cottam H., Leadbeater C., (2006), The User Generated State:
Public Services 2.0
Crowston K., Howison J., (2005), The social structure of Free
and Open Source software development, First Monday, volume
10, n. 2

Goetz, T., (2003), Open Source Everywhere. Software is just the

beginning … open source is doing for mass innovation what
the assembly line did for mass production. Get ready for the
era when collaboration replaces the corporation, Wired Issue
11.11, 2003

Kuwabara K., (2000), Linux: A Bazaar at the Edge of Chaos, First

Monday, volume 5, number 3, March 2000,


Lave J., Wenger E., (1991), Situated Learning: Legitimate

Peripheral Participation, Cambridge University Press,

Manzini E., (2003), Jegou F., Quotidiano sostenibile. Scenari di

vita urbana, Edizioni Ambiente, Milano

Manzini E., (2006), Creative communities, collaborative

networks and distributed economies. Promising signals for a
sustainable development , Dis-Indaco, Politecnico di Milano

Madanmohan T.R., (2002), Roles and Knowledge Management

in Online Technology Communities: An Ethnography Study,
Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore, Digital
Menichinelli M., (2006), Reti collaborative. Il design per una
auto-organizzazione Open Peer-to-Peer, Tesi di laurea, rel. Ezio
Manzini, Politecnico di Milano, A.A. 2004/05
Menichinelli M., Valsecchi F., (2007), Le comunità del Free
Software come organizzazioni complesse. Il ruolo del design
verso una cultura Open Knowledge., Paper presentato alla
Conferenza Italiana sul Software Libero 2007, Cosenza, 11-12-
13 Maggio 2007

Mulgan G., Steinberg T., Salem O., (2005), Wide Open. Open
source methods and their future potential, Demos, London
Nakakoji K., Yamamoto Y., Nishinaka Y., Kishida K., Ye Y.,
(2002), Evolution Patterns of Open-Source Software Systems
and Communities, Proceedings of International Workshop on
Principles of Software Evolution, ACM Press, New York,
Pacenti E., (1992/93), Il design dei servizi, Tesi di laurea, rel.
Ezio Manzini ; co-rel. Emmanuele Villani, Politecnico di Milano

Pacenti E., (1998), Il progetto dell’interazione dei servizi: un

contributo al tema della progettazione dei servizi, Tesi di
dottorato, tutor: Ezio Manzini ; contro-tutor: Giovanni
Anceschi, Politecnico di Milano, Dipartimento di disegno
industriale e tecnologia dell’architettura

Pizzocaro S., (2004), Design e complessità, in AA.VV., Design

multiverso,, Milano

Prahalad, C.K, (2004), The Fortune at the Bottom of the

Pyramid, Wharton School Publishing

Rullani E., (2002), Il distretto industriale come sistema

adattativo complesso, in Quadrio Curzio A., Fortis M. (a cura

di), complessità e distretti industriali: dinamiche, modelli, casi
reali, Il Mulino, Bologna

Sangiorgi D., (2004), Design dei servizi come design dei sistemi
di attività : la teoria dell’attività applicata alla progettazione
dei servizi, Tesi di dottorato di ricerca in Disegno Industriale,
XV ciclo

Vicari Haddock S., (2004), La città contemporanea, Il Mulino,


Watson A., (2005), Reputation in Open Source Software,

College of Business Administration Northeastern University
Working paper