I start typing these words as the sunlight reaches my window for the first time since I arrived back in Berlin, six days ago. I am isolating with my children at our place until the coming weekend, when our mandatory quarantine will be over. If you are reading this so far in the future that our current context has already dissipated, here's a short summary: last year the world was struck by the pandemic of COVID-19. Many aspects of everyday life were impacted as the world had to fight the high infection rates of the disease. The death toll, as of today, has already gone beyond a couple of million lives worldwide. There are vaccines, developed and tested in record time, being currently rolled out. We can not see, however, an end to the current state. Hence, as I've just spent a couple of months with my children in Brazil - which sadly is governed by a gang of ill-intentioned and incompetent psychopathic morons - we are required to quarantine for ten days upon entry in Germany.
It seems to be then the right time to return to this blog, otherwise left untouched since November last year. Since the previous post, I have crossed the 18 months mark into the OpenDoTT project. Last year was intense, and all of us - the five OpenDoTT fellows - have had to adapt to a scenario that was radically changing every week or so.
Restrictions imposed to civil life due to the COVID pandemic required us to modify each of our individual research activities - many of which consisted of interacting face-to-face with people. Most of our original plans had already been approved or at least submitted to Dundee University's Ethics Committee by February, and had to be amended in record time after the UK first entered lockdown mode. The restrictions have also impacted our ability to access University facilities - libraries and workshops being chiefly missed, as well as the open studio where we were still getting to know each other.
Another fact that caused anxiety was the whole project moving to Northumbria University, in Newcastle. The migration itself has had little friction in terms of contracts, payment and visa. But some things that we had already learnt in Dundee - such as how to purchase equipment and other goods - are totally different. Our laptops had to be reset. There have been changes in the project management, some of them still underway. And to make things even more complex, all IT systems at Northumbria have had a security breach lasting over a month, which impacted many everyday activities that should have been simple.
We were all supposed to move to Berlin on July 2020 to start an 18-month secondment at the Mozilla office, and that was also impacted. For some of us due to the German Consulate in Edinburgh having spent some months closed. Our researcher visas to be allowed to live in Germany have not been issued yet - not only because of COVID, but also due to a lack of clarity on exactly what documents were required. On top of that, from time to time there were different sets of restrictions to travel imposed by the University, the British authorities, or the German government.
All of us also had to face the fact that the Mozilla Office is closed since the first quarter of 2020, and is not likely to reopen anytime soon. Now all of us are considered to be "virtually seconded", and I am the only one that has in fact moved to Berlin, which is a pity. The fact that we are spread in different countries has also taken a toll in team spirit. Some situations that were already conflictive per se have gotten worst, in part (only in part) because for months we have not met outside screens. I miss having a team to exchange with on a more open level.
Even amid all that turmoil - still added of radical changes in my family configuration - I managed to progress with my research. I have fulfilled the goal of putting in practice what I learnt about design research in the first year of the project. The data and insights collected informed the creation of a set of concept ideas. I have finished my first year's deliverables.
Since I moved to Germany, all of us attended training offered by Mozilla about "working open", which brought me loads of reflections that I have documented in the spiral of openness. Last month I was finally able to attend to my annual progression at Northumbria, akin to what would be the upgrade process at Dundee - a check on, well, the progress of my research. There were some observations for the next one, but I was ultimately approved and free to continue.
My current plans are of prototyping a combination of some of the concept ideas in the coming months. I will explore possibilities using the Universal Registry of Things as groundwork for one or more machines that implement some of the functionalities of Point and Reuse. For that I'll make use of Mozilla-inspired open methodologies and technological possibilities we'll be learning about with Officcine Innesto
As should be expected to anyone familiar with my previous projects, I am not necessarily interested in creating products or technological solutions. Instead, in this case I want to experiment with speculative ideas in order to demonstrate concrete possibilities and engage in productive and hopefully creative conversations with people who can contribute to the field of waste prevention. I am interested in understanding whether digital technologies could augment and/or disseminate the sort of skills and knowledge that are important for the role of the agents valoristes (about which I wrote previously and recently found a training program in France). In future stages of my research, I expect to connect the ability to promote an easier reuse of materials (through repair, re-circulation, upcyling or other kinds of transformation) with public policies at a local and regional level.
I will be using this blog more often as these plans evolve, and will likely expand parts of my documentation making use of a git repository. Stay tuned, or follow / contact me on twitter, LinkedIn or any other way you find in [this page]() (in portuguese)
Header image: Jeff Hopper (Unsplash)