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Laura Popplow

co.making – design participation in transformation?

Abschluss des PhD-Programms / Completion of the PhD-Program: April 2020

Betreuung / Supervision: 
Karin Harrasser
Arne Scheuermann (HBK Bern)

This thesis explores co.making pratices of situated, participatory design, whereby participation becomes redefined beyond human interactions, as sociomaterial entanglements with Others. Making together is framed as potentially democratic – a quality of practices more needed especially in times of crisis and transformation. Following this argument, the aim of this research project is insofar to trace the specifics of practices that are described as democratic experiments steering transformation – and how these characteristics are actualized and currently reflected in the fields of participatory and transformation design.

Methodologically this research project is a combination of (historic) discourse research and action research, bridging historic and actual experiments through a programmatic approach. Along five case studies, I explore patterns of co.making in two historic situations and through my own experimental practice. Practices of democratic experimenting, working and planning together are explored through the education at Black Mountain College (1930s, 1940s) and the design of technology at the workplace in the project UTOPIA (1970s, 1980s). The conceptual framework build through the two historic discourse studies is consequently used to analyze, reflect and position my own practice as matters of participatory and transformation design: a long-term engagement with the urban potential of fungi (Fungutopia), a public hackathon on the topic of cycling (CycleHack) and a longer engagement focusing on more inclusive city planning and making (co.city lab).

My analysis concludes in a detailed characterization of co.making: an ecology of situated practices with differentiated temporalities. I also introduce the notions of precarious Things and imagination of Otherness, which are argued as central to the sociomaterial and political processes we call transformations. I propose to focus on complementary potentials of practices and different temporalities of transformability.

Kurz-Biographie / Short Bio
Laura Popplow is both a cultural studies researcher (University of Hildesheim) and a transdisciplinary designer (Academy of Media Arts Cologne). After an excessive research into the transformative potentials of fungi and mycelium (FUNGUTOPIA) she is working on a PhD with the title „Design Participation in Transformation?“ since 2014. In 2016, she started the urban co-design consultancy co.city lab with Carolin Holzer.

Email-Adresse / Email-Address:

CycleHack Wuppertal 2015 © Laura Popplow