Defense in the field of Design: MA Anja-Lisa Hirscher

When Skillful Participation Becomes Design: Making clothes together

Custos: Prof. Ramia Mazé, Aalto University Department of Design

Opponent: Prof. Liesbeth Huybrechts, Hasselt University

Date: 13.3.2020 

Place: Otakaari 1, M1 ( note new location)

When Skillful Participation Becomes Design: Making clothes together investigates what happens, when diverse communities of people gather together to make clothes. In such instances, design, use and participation intersect in novel and unexpected ways. The dissertation examines the fluidity that flourishes at these intersections by introducing findings from three short- and long-term “research through design” experiments which brought communities together to sew, upcycle and design new garments. These experiments were facilitated in Finland, Germany and Italy and provide rich materials and unique insights. The experiments are considered as alternative spaces of peer production, dedicated to placing participants with varying knowledge and skill into dialogue while providing spaces, tools, materials, and guidance.

What thrives skillful participation in such spaces, is studied in relation to the designer’s role in facilitating the social and material aspects of making clothes together. Departing from participatory design and peer production literature, this research investigates through literature and practice exchange, what happens when participants (designers and users) make (clothing) together in extended participatory design and community contexts. As a result, the study documents in detail how the role of participants (designers and users alike) evolves over time and is informed by the participants’ skillful acts of use and emerging social and material aspects. Hence, the dissertation looks beyond predefined roles and instead advocates for designing flexible spaces, which allow changes in participation and anticipate unexpected use.


The dissertation notice and the published dissertation are placed for public display at Väre (Otaniementie 14), close to the Info Desk, at least 10 days before the defence date.

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