Open and collaborative design processes - Meta-Design, ontologies and platforms within the Maker Movement

Open and collaborative design processes - Meta-Design, ontologies and platforms within the Maker Movement

Massimo Menichinelli

PhD available here



PhD Thesis





Italy Spain Finland Australia



Research interest

Life interests?

PhD Thesis

Doctor in New Media

MA Industrial Design, Milano Polytechnic

Open and collaborative design processes - Meta-Design, ontologies and platforms within the Maker Movement


The emergence of the Maker Movement has taken place in the context of a design practice and research that is now open, peer-to-peer, diffuse, distributed, decentralized; activity-based; meta-designed; ontologically-defined and defining; locally-bounded but globally-networked and community-centered. For many years the author participated and worked in the Maker Movement, with a special focus on its usage of digital platforms and digital fabrication tools for collaboratively designing and manufacturing digital and physical artifacts as Open Design projects. The author's main focus in practice and research as a meta-designer was in understanding how can participants in distributed systems collaboratively work together through tools and platforms for the designing and managing of collaborative processes. The main research question of this dissertation is: How can we support and integrate the research and practice of meta-designers in analyzing, designing and sharing open and collaborative design and making processes within open, peer-to-peer and distributed systems?

The focus evolved and changed with three main phases: from facilitating collaborative design processes with 1) guidelines for a generic design approach, process and tools, to the use of 2) design tools and workshops that encode the methodology to developing 3) a digital ontology and the related digital platform. In the latter, the ontology for describing, documenting, sharing and designing collaborative design processes was developed as part of a broader conceptual framework, OpenMetaDesign, that builds the ontology on top of concepts describing design processes, and encodes it in a digital platform. The role of the ontology is to support the practice and research with a Research through Design approach that works not just on understanding the practice but also informing it, navigating it and continuously redesigning it. This dissertation is an exploration of the possible role, practice and profile of meta-designers that work in facilitating distributed, open and collaborative design and making processes in the Maker Movement. As a result, it provides insights on the practice and artifacts of the author and also a strategy and tools for applying the same exploration to other meta-designers. Following a Research through Design framework for bridging practice and research, the dissertation redefines Meta-Design in the Maker Movement as the design of digital ontologies of design processes as design material. Ultimately, the practice of designing a Metadata Ontology for Ontological Design through the design of bits (digital environments) and atoms (physical artifacts) with and for Open, Peer-to-Peer, Diffuse, Distributed and Decentralized Systems. Finally, it redefines meta-designers as designers, facilitators, participants, developers and researchers embedded in social networks that define their activities, profiles and boundaries for the ontologies they design.

Communities : identify

New way to design with communities

How each community, design processes

How do we facilitate

Process for process sake

2005 Make Magasine, Arduino, RepRap

Sustainable society


Industrial Design crash

Connect digital physical

Make Magasine



Maker as profession

Mix of personalities

More attitude

More culture


Meta Design: Approach of Design Culture,

Rooted in the practice

Professional Design

Design Management

Not designing for yourself, collaboration

New Media, digital environment, tools and processes

Design your way of working

Ontoligcal design - tools influence how we design


Open Framework

Creating open source processing


Ontology of design process

Build digital tools


Research for Design

On: how it's done

For: Design: For design

Tested for creating research

Seek collaborative processes in your community

Guidelines in Seoul, Singapore, Finland

Milan Polytechnic, shorter,

Infinite growth


DIY Bio, waves

  1. Garage
  2. New tools, new approach
  3. focus on technology less on impact
  4. More on the social


Data, scale Complex way of working from monopolies


Technology Social Sexism Racism

Peer to peer - barrier

Social Justice movement

Embody part


Tools Colonization: South European perspective, putting difference worldview Silicon valley

Open Meta Design itself

Full Strategy: Research ←→ Practice

Way to assess your way working in this environment





3D print



One person doing everything

Team, is important






Impact assesment for the maker mouvement

Social entrepreneurship

Economic impact

Make it explicit

Maker β†’ Observer





PhD is a long journey, what is the One thing that you discovered that was really different

Workshop in Seoul

Framework, psychologist, Russia and Finland

Describe an activity, you can design

Network analysis

Data Map Maker mouvement

Twitter Analysis, easy to mine

Makerspace VS Fablabs

Regional network

Making Design Theory

Design Research and practice

Design Theory

Main influences to do this work


Thesis is more neutral - but not advocate


Escobar 2018 "Design for Territories on one side, and on Design for Sustainability and Social Innovation on one side"


The technological and social dimension

  • 1) Product
  • 2) Product- Service System
  • 3) Spatio-Social
  • 4) Socio-Technical System (focus on promoting radical changes to societal needs)

Globalisation - localisation

Environmental impact of decentralised production


How many makers there

Impact on climate

We are going to change manufacturing


Manufacturing in terms of volume

Impact is cultural - not the volume

Creatign a change to artefacts

Compression of scientific Revolution

Scientific Method and Structure of Scientific Revolution

Spectrum political undertones

Hackerspace - Makerspace -

What's next?

Future strategy

Work with communities


Research & Practice

General, open

it will take time


Article-based dissertation, distribute the workload, scholarship, funding

Finland, Linux

Make sense of the work

Timeline, things that happened and influenced,

Gantt Chart

Making for agriculture

Do research on what you do

teaching + Research

Only teaching your knowledge is getting old


manage Fablab