Circulate: Design thinking for the Circular Economy

Background & Goals

Increasingly, we see architects and designers taking the role of ‘community infrastructure designers’. That is: they don’t just design an apartment building or plan a neighbourhood. They also take part in the design of the platforms & digital infrastructures that let future inhabitants/users manage communal resources. Distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) such as blockchain are seen as a key enabling technology for such platforms, as they allow for the tracking of resources and their use; enable (micro)transactions, and organise identity & rights management. Smart contracts provide the additional affordance to encode various community rules, enabling the automation of the management & governance of the system. However, such platforms are not neutral. The design of their underlying technologies and interfaces articulate particular values and may prioritise specific social and economic relations while deferring others. They may replace human agency & autonomy and undermine public values. The Circulate project aims to bring out the (sometimes conflicting) values and dilemmas in the design of local platforms for communal resource management, and provide designers with guidelines, tools, and frameworks to address them.

Outcomes so far (click titles to access articles):

The Blockchain and the Commons: Dilemmas in the Design of Local Platforms. In this paper, we introduce six design dilemmas that designers should take into account when applying distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) in the design of local resource management platforms.

Blockchain Stories. Narrative and Speculative Experiments for Value Discovery. In this paper, we argue for a ValueSensitive Design approach to engage with the six design dilemmas, and describe two examples of narrative and speculative experiments for ‘value discovery’ that can be used to line up the affordances of DLTs with the values of a community and bring out potential conflicts.

The City as a Licence. Implications of Blockchain and Distributed Ledgers for Urban Governance. In this paper, we argue that the introduction of DLTS in urban management and governance forces us to rethink how we understand the city and the way its social and economic relations are governed. We introduce the City as a Licence as a new lens to think about urban governance and discuss the design implications of DLTs.