Open Design is a crowd-driven global ecosystem which tries to challenge and alter contemporary modes of capitalistic hardware production. It strives to build on the collective skills, expertise and efforts of people regardless of their educational, social or political backgrounds to develop and disseminate physical products, machines and systems. In contrast to capitalistic hardware production, Open Design practitioners publicly share design files, blueprints and knowhow through various channels including internet platforms and in-person workshops. These designs are typically replicated, modified, improved and reshared by individuals and groups who are broadly referred to as ‘makers’.
This dissertation aims to expand the current scope of Open Design within human-computer interaction (HCI) research through a long-term exploration of Open Design’s socio-technical processes. I examine Open Design from three perspectives: the functional—materials, tools, and platforms that enable crowd-driven open hardware production, the critical—materially-oriented engagements within open design as a site for sociotechnical discourse, and the speculative—crowd-driven critical envisioning of future hardware.
More specifically, this dissertation first explores the growing global scene of Open Design through a long-term ethnographic study of the open science hardware (OScH) movement, a genre of Open Design. This long-term study of OScH provides a focal point for HCI to deeply understand Open Design's growing global landscape. Second, it examines the application of Critical Making within Open Design through an OScH workshop with designers, engineers, artists and makers from local communities. This work foregrounds the role of HCI researchers as facilitators of collaborative critical engagements within Open Design. Third, this dissertation introduces the concept of crowd-driven Design Fiction through the development of a publicly accessible online Design Fiction platform named Dream Drones. Through a six month long development and a study with drone related practitioners, it offers several pragmatic insights into the challenges and opportunities for crowd-driven Design Fiction. Through these explorations, I highlight the broader implications and novel research pathways for HCI to shape and be shaped by the global Open Design movement.