In September 2019 we had the first general meeting of the OpenDOTT consortium, with the five fellows, supervisors and members of all partner organisations. The meeting took place in Dundee, and as well as being the perfect way to get acquainted with that many people in a short period (there were almost 20 of us), it was also very productive.

I had just returned from my first research trip and was already burning with loads of new questions. The day prior to the meeting, instead of working on my presentation I decided to walk. In fact, I got my son's broken scooter and tried to find some way to repair it in the city. I've been to hardware stores, bike shops and second hand outlets. Naturally, just like every other city there are a lot of repairpeople working in Dundee, but the specificity of the bolt that needed to be replaced made the repair not that trivial. Good food for my research, in any case. But the scooter was still broken (I eventually managed to have it fixed by the volunteer bike repair guy working on Saturdays by the Tayside Re-users, but I'll leave that story for later).

After a speed dating exercise on the first morning, we had an introductory session on design research by STBY and Quicksand. Then on to present our research so far (sketches of literature review, research questions). The next day we reconvened to learn about the specifics of this year's plans, and then spend time with our supervisors. I had a great time, and ended up with a lot more to process - but with a lot of relevant references and arguably an alternative framing to some of my themes.

Here are the quickly assembled slides I used to present my research so far:

Some insights and open questions arising from the discussions:

  • Experimenting early and with anything is better than doing nothing.
  • Particular stories of objects. Trails of things. Oxfam shelflife (an archival point of view / a blog post by Chris Speed).
  • Blockchain records (ereuse's experiments / mattereum)
  • Design action plan for a circular economy, Anna Whicher.
  • From Smart City to Healthy City. What theory of change? What is a fairphone at city level?
  • Your preferred scale of city? Dumb city? Smaller places?
  • Digital waste - where will our data go?
  • Ronaldo / David Li. What do borders look like? Edge of the city?
  • Historical take on the commons - Andrew Prescott
  • A Burglar's Guide to the City
  • Who gets to the decide what is waste or not?
  • Smart city - not replacing humans with robots.
  • Visibility / invisibility. Privacy / security. City as a being. What rights? Any?
  • Other beings in the city.
  • Reappearance of the computer / reappearance of waste.

A plan for exerimenting with design research started to appear as well:

Key themes:

  • Repair culture.
  • The city as a makerspace.
  • Internet of all things.

Key questions:

  • What people think of repairing? In Dundee, Berlin (and relate to previous investigation in Brazil, Qatar, France).
  • What do people repair? Why? Extremes - umbrellas / jewellery.
  • Trust / citizens
  • Trust / pros
  • Tools, skills


During the first year:

  • Citizens with different levels of familiarity with Dundee. A native Dundonian, someone who moved here since some years, and new inhabitants.
  • Professional repair shops.
  • City council - waste management.
  • Reusers / Charity shops / Pawn shops.
  • Craftspeople. Nine trades of Dundee.

In the second day, we had the chance to spend more time with our supervisory teams. My notes are below:

  • Usable. Stories.
  • Tool libraries.
  • Bookmooch (inactive - people could share books with others)
  • Everybody has stories about discards, basements filled with junk. How to discard or repurpose? Different cities. Similarities. Charity shops.
  • Bunz app - trade, barter, exchange, or buy/seel with altcoin.
  • Tim Ingold, Making.
  • Barter + stories.
  • Public spaces to share objects.
  • Freecycling. Gumtree. Craigslist.
  • Nantes, Ressourceries.
  • E-waste performance
  • Focus: value of things + humans. Waste in the smart city.

In the end, those two days brought even more insights. I will spend some months processing and working on the ideas generated then.

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