Counter-hegemonic practices; dynamic interplay between agonism, commoning and strategic design

Per-Anders Hillgren, Anna Seravalli, Mette Agger Eriksen


Today we can see new policies that suggest more participatory models to address societal challenges. The interest in design and different forms of urban labs is also increasing. This includes participatory design (PD) that has moved out of the workplace into the urban territory. In this paper we will argue that the main contribution from PD is to set up processes that can support and critically reflect on local democracy in relation to these challenges. We will look closer into the notions of commoning and agonism, two concepts that both contest the concept of participation and expand what could be required to constitute local democracy. Through a project journey spanning over seven years, we will discuss how these concepts could be used to guide processes of infrastructuring in democratic urban development processes. However, working with them poses several obstacles, including tensions between them as well as with the notion of strategic design. We will argue that in order to introduce them in a strategic design perspective, you need to consider long-term interventions and diverse levels of engagement as well as different phases where agonistic and commoning approaches are alternated with more strategic engagements of developing networks with powerful alliances.

Keywords: participatory design, democracy, infrastructuring, agonism, commoning.

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