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The Circulate Project | 2 year update

Caradt researcher Tara Karpinski has participated in the Circulate Project for the last 2 years under the direction of Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences.

The Circulate Project

During the past two years, the Circulate Project explored the design of digital platforms for resource communities. In particular, the project focused on the affordances of distributed ledger technologies as administration and governance tools for communities that want to share resources with one another, such as energy collectives, housing coops, or shared mobility communities. In this process, the research team explored 6 design dilemmas that arise when distributed ledger technologies (DLT) are applied in the governance of artificial material commons. To learn more about this, check out the short movie below highlighting the Circulate project and its findings:


Six design dilemma’s to address when setting up digital platforms for resource communities

Over the past few years, various communities around the world have started to organize themselves to collectively share and manage a variety of resources, from community gardens and urban farms to shared mobility, co-housing and energy co-operatives. These resource communities all share the need to manage and keep an overview of their resource usage and contributions. Many have turned to digital technologies, such as online platforms, digital ledgers and the internet of things. Combined, these technologies provide handy tools for keeping track of accounts, managing transactions and rights. Moreover, the use of algorithms and smart contracts hold the promise of automating various tasks, making it easier to keep resource communities up and running, in fair and accountable ways.

However, when creating such a platform and deciding on how the platform should actually work, communities will run into a number of ‘design dilemmas’. Digital platforms are not merely management tools, the rules embedded in their set-up will actively govern the community, and may be hard to change after the initial design. This requires that resource communities make active choices in the set-up of their

platforms. For instance, what type of data should be visible on the platform and to whom? Should a platform keep all data usage private? Or could it actually be useful for others to see who has been using what resource at what time? What underlying logic should be operationalised in the platform and its software? Should it prioritise private gains for community members, or rather focus on positive outcomes for the community at large? The answers to these dilemmas may not be immediately clear to community members and tensions may arise between the different values and interests at play, as well as the affordances of the technologies involved.

In the past two years, the researchproject Circulate, developed by the Research Group Civic Interaction Design at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences and research partners like Caradt, explored the design of these digital platforms, which are now increasingly popular amongst commons-based organizations. One of the main outputs of the Circulate project is a design canvas that features six dilemmas to be addressed, while also providing guidelines to be used by designers and communities when setting up such a platform in an open and collaborative manner.

Download the full Canvas herearrow

Design Thinking for the Circular Economy

This research project explores the question of whether situated design methods can contribute to value transparency in the design of local platforms for the circular economy. 

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‘My practice is situated in between different actors, in this shape-shifting middle many things can happen.’

Tara Karpinski is a designer, researcher and educator working in the realm of social practice. She holds a BA in photography and art history from the Savannah College of Art & Design (USA), and an MA from the Sandberg Instituut (NL). Her Master studies were funded by a Netherland-America Foundation grant.

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‘People are the product of their relationships with their environment. It’s important to understand how technological developments influence these relationships.’

Michel van Dartel is Research Professor Situated Art and Design at the Avans Centre of Applied Research for Art, Design and Technology (Caradt) and Director of V2_Lab for the Unstable Media.

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Research Group: Situated Art and Design

Living in cities developed around data and acting within the inscrutable structure of our techno-society demands art and design that can help understand how we relate to these rapidly changing surroundings and to reflect on that relationship. The research group Situated Art and Design responds to this exigency by fostering a situated turn in art and design through a diverse portfolio of interdisciplinary research projects in partnership with academic and cultural partners, as well as with government and industry.

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