Accepted paper:

Technologies of friendship? Open design objects and their figurations of relatedness


Tomás Criado (Humboldt University of Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

An exploration on the open design objects designed by the activist collective En torno a la silla as ‘technologies of friendship:’ objects that because of their forms of making and documenting open up not a static figuration of friendship but an experimentally collaborative mode of relatedness

Paper long abstract:

Open design objects are commonly associated with a multifarious transformation of knowledge-production practices in and around design, usually entailing: the dissemination of objects to allow for their collective reuse, documenting and freely licensing them with a wide gamut of options; or the articulation of possibilities around a more collaborative economy. In this paper, I would like to attempt another plausible conceptualization of those objects, drawing on my ethnographic engagement in the Barcelona-based activist design collective En torno a la silla (ETS). ETS explores alternative infrastructural conditions to allow for different relations between wheelchair users and their sociomaterial surroundings. Borrowing the term from the Argentinian artist Roberto Jacoby they usually refer to their objects as 'technologies of friendship,' since they allow the crucial material conditions for them to do things together. However, despite this concept might bring to the fore a distinctive and static ontology of relatedness, I would like to attempt another ethnographic characterization grounding on (1) the ever-present mixture of roles between designers and users; (2) the expansions and contractions of the design ensemble; and (3) the effects of the blurring of design and ethnographic documentation (i.e. field-notes) in the making of those objects. What if ETS open design objects were technologies opening up the very production of friendship? That is, what if their open design objects brought with them an experimentally collaborative mode of relatedness where, in analogy to Strathern's arguments over the expansion of kinship through new reproductive technologies, collaborators are always a surprise?

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Anthropology, the arts, and new materialisms