Open Source—standing on the shoulders of giants—is the preferred mode of production, insight and creativity today, and even more so when the 3rd industrial revolution starts to take effect: distributed and collaborative relationships, and a shift away from hierarchical power and toward lateral power.
The 3rd industrial revolution is bringing affordable digital tools into the sphere of manufacturing and beyond: Affordable tools do not require huge capital investments; they bridge the labour-capital-divide, the owner-maker is re-emerging. Digital tools connect designing and manufacturing, they bridge the white collar-blue collar-divide, the designer-producer is having a comeback. Affordable digital tools also spread outside the industrial world, they bridge the producer-consumer-divide in new and powerful ways.
Open source practice in software is characterized by structures that 'resemble a great babbling bazaar of differing agendas and approaches'. Similar practices have yet to evolve in (open) design. Is it conceivable that a design brand start to release beta products early and often, to delegate designing to the ‘users’, and to involve those ‘users’ as beta testers? How likely are designers to share semi-finished work with colleagues, even from different disciplines or the other side of the world, and to accept that others might take their intermediary results, sketches and models, continue to work on them and turn them into next-step intermediary results that are quite different to what the initial designer conceived them to be?
There is a small micro cosmos out there, the global network of Fab Labs, where some of these questions can be explored. Fab Labs are pretty popular with designers, but larger scale co-operative projects have so far been in the domains of engineering and education. What would be the reason: Is it a lack of interest, a disbelief in the power of the results, a missing skill, an absent opportunity, too early to tell—or are we just not seeing the projects?