Collaborative Economy Workshop in Dublin

A few weeks ago, I received an invitation to a Collaborative Economy workshop organised by the Single Market Forum 2017/2018 in collaboration with Sharing Economy Ireland taking place in Dublin on October 18.
On a very fresh morning (only 5 degrees) and after missing the 5:30am bus, I made it to Dublin on time.
We started with a quick round of introductions, and I found out that in the audience there were several people from the EC, guests from Denmark,UK, Portugal
and Italy, representatives of various Irish governmental and non-governmental organisations, people from academia studying the phenomenon, companies and organisations involved in the Collaborative Economy in Ireland.

Then a few of the guests had very short (4 min each) interventions, where we heard about the study initiated by DG Grow on short-term accommodation platforms, about defining the term “worker” in the case of non-standard work (DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion),  about a two years fact finding investigation on the role of platforms for e-commerce (DG Connect). Guests from Sharing Economy UK and Denmark (link to the Danish Govt Strategy here) spoke briefly about their countries’ specific situations.

We spent the next session sharing stories about our own involvement in the collaborative economy in Ireland. I had the chance to hear from, among others, Karolis Duoba from Tryilo, Maggy Morrissey, a photographer who has an Etsy shop and is involved in organising monthly meetups for photographers interested in monetising their work in Dublin, and Fiachra Duffy, who is working for Deliveroo in Dublin. The story that stuck with me was Simon O’Rafferty‘s story about the Trade School, an initiative that aimed to bring people together to exchange skills, while at the same time giving them the opportunity to connect with others.

During the next 3 sessions, we joined various “Conversation Tables“, each dedicated to a topic. I started with “From local to global“, where we spent a good part of the time trying to come to a shared understanding of what we all meant by “local” and by “global”. I then moved to “From rural to urban“. During the last session, we discussed “Harnessing social and environmental opportunities“, talking about what could be done to provide better support for housing, education and food issues. The format worked well- at each table we examined challenges(1st round), resources(2nd round) and solutions (3rd round), while a topic facilitator stayed with the same topic for all 3 rounds.

Before lunch, the Your Europe resource website was presented. The resource is dedicate to those who move from one European country to another for work and have to make sense of the legislation in a new country. I would have loved to have access to something like this years ago when I moved to Ireland!

In the afternoon, we were all invited to suggest topics for two rounds of Open Space sessions in relation to the future of work in the digital economy.
First, I joined a session on ‘Creativity and Freedom‘ suggested by Saoirse Sheridan, whose ElderHomeShare initiative had drawn my attention in the morning. We attempted to understand what the two concepts meant for each of us, and we ended up noting the future steps each of us wanted to take to bring more creativity and freedom into our own lives. I surprised myself telling the group how much I enjoy the creativity and freedom afforded by my academic career, which is quite a change from my usual moaning. I guess the sabbatical did wonders!
The second session I joined was titled “Are platforms creating value? If so, for whom and how?“. We spoke about how platforms are more similar to marketplaces than to corporations, the various skills required by the collaborative economy, the possible sharing of data between governments and platforms. We were all intrigued by the business model of Urban Volt, illustrating that not all the collaborative economy initiatives rely on platforms.

We came back in a circle for a round of presentations and conclusions, which was video recorded and might appear online at some point. All our discussions were illustrated throughout the day by the fantastic Sabine Soeder aka CoCreative Flow, who persuaded me I should have a go at graphic facilitation(will have to find the time though!).

It was a dense and exciting day that gave me the fantastic opportunity to meet and talk to peers interested and working in the Collaborative Economy. I left with the hope that this was only the beginning, and that we’ll be able to help disentangle these complex issues through the SharingAndCaring COST action and the CollabEire Special Interest Group.

The Single Market Forum 2017-2018 has organised 3 other similar workshops in other European countries before the one in Dublin. Kudos to Dana-Adriana Puia for bringing it to Ireland and to Elizabeth Douet from Sharing Economy Ireland who initiated this!

October 23 2017 | CollaborativeEconomy and Events and SharingAndCaring | No Comments »

Housing Ourselves Conference in Cloughjordan

Last Saturday, we attended the “Housing Ourselves” conference in Cloughjordan eco-village.

The conference is part of the Convergence Festival, that is at its 20th edition. Cultivate hosted this conference in partnership with Cloughjordan Co-Housing and Cloughjordan Ecovillage, and its aim was to explore new models of housing, smaller homes and more liveable neighbourhoods for healthier and more sustainable local communities. The participants – from all the ways of life, all around the country, and all ages- were all interested in how a community-led approach to housing could work. The introductions session was titled “Voices from the field“, and we really heard a variety of voices, from young couples interested to build a tiny home to seniors in search of the ideal retirement solution (as were we!).
Housing is a real problem in Ireland, and the number of people (and families) who become homeless is rising.
The event was facilitated by Davie Philip from Cultivate. In his introduction, Davie mentioned the Irish Community Living Unconferences series that happened earlier this year in Dublin, Cork and Galway and attempted to bring together people interested in the areas of Community Living, Co-operative Housing and Eco Villages. In Cork, an initiative group formed following the unconference held there.
In the morning, we started with a series of presentations.

The first part was dedicated to Irish case studies.
Prof. Peadar Kirby spoke about the Cloughjordan ecovillage project started 20 years ago. The economic crisis prevented the project from being completed, and only 55 family houses were build on the existing 120 plots.
After that, Margarita Solon gave a talk about McAuley Place in Naas. The former convent was redesigned and extended to host people from all paths of life for a weekly rent of 100 Eur. As Margharita Solon emphasised, the centre does not provide care – but they really care. The initial idea emerged in 2000, and the first resident moved in in 2011. The facility includes tea rooms, a garden, a charity shop and a reception. Art exhibitions are organised periodically. The centre hosts many kinds of community events, that allow the residents to interact frequently with people from their local community.
The next to present was Hugh Brennan, one of the founders of O Cualann. O Cullann was created in 2014 and is a voluntary housing cooperative based on the principles of co-housing approved by the Irish Council for Social Housing. The first estate built is located in Ballymun. The development includes 49 units(while there are more than 700 people on the waiting list at the moment. It is dedicated to families with a household annual income between 36 and 79,000 Eur per annum. The future residents meet periodically, get to know each other and write their own rules for communal living. The development started the construction in Oct 2016, and. The first 5 families have already moved in. 70% of people are from the local area and only first time buyers are accepted.

During the next session – Learning from Europe, Davie Philip gave us a tour through various co-housing projects in Europe, from the Eva-Lanxmeer project in the Netherlands and East Whins in Findhorn, UK to the SUSI Vauban project in Freiburg, Germany, that gave a new life to a Vauban fortress. The beautiful images in Davie’s presentation gave wings to my imagination!

Paul Allen’s stories from communities formed around CAT  in Wales were really fascinating. Turning a derelict mansion into a co-housing place makes a lot of sense now that I’ve listened to Paul. Paul mentioned Radical Routes , a network of co-ops and individuals working toward a world based on equality and co-operation, the One Planet Development law that was passed by the Welsh Parliament and the Llamas ecovillage.

Dreamers and Diggers, Communes Britannica and the Communities magazine  were all mentioned as sources of inspiration for anyone who aspires to create a communal living place.

We had a delicious lunch prepared with local produce and we enjoyed meeting more of the participants and hearing about their reasons of being there.

The next session was dedicated to conversations in a World Café format.We discussed what hinders and what enables a cooperative approach to housing.
As factors hindering the approach, mentality, a culture favouring ownership, the lack of information and facilitators, the difficult access to land, passive and dominant people, people seeing themselves as disempowered, fear and conflict avoidance were listed. On the side of enablers, the Friendly Societies Act and CLG companies, crowdfunding and access to financial resources were named.

Community Finance Ireland and Clann Credo were mentioned as potential funding sources for such projects, and the example of the Calann Camphill Community was brought into discussion. We watched this video and got a better idea of the goals of the Camphill Communities,  which I had only heard vaguely mentioned before.

The PIMBY concept (as opposed to NIMBY) was mentioned in relation to this inclusive neighbourhood project involving mutually interested citizens.

The next set of presentations, dedicated to Financing Cooperative Housing Projects, started with John Masterton, the Head Financial Officer of  Cooperative Housing Ireland. The organisation was formed in 1973. The houses they develop are 25-30% cheaper, and they currently have built 5800 houses that are owner occupied. 2300 houses are under management, and 600 units are leased. They are approved to borrow from the Housing Finance Agency. The building of a 8-10 houses estate involves the identification of a site, a general specification and contracts signed with all future home owners.

Finally, Jackson Moulding and Anna Hope  from Bristol’s Ecomotive spoke about their work in Bristol. Jackson had just returned from a 2 months study trip through Japan, the US, and Canada, where he sought inspiration from other co-housing projects. Jackson and Anna initiated the Ashley Vale Action Group, building their own houses in an area that was initially supposed to become a parking lot. Jackson spoke enthusiastically about Bristol as an ecosystem of innovation, where things often happen in spite of the local authorities. He maintained that “a No is an uneducated Yes”, and it is our duty to educate the people around us when it comes to social innovation.

The final discussion was dedicated to Community Led Housing and Modular Homes, and ended with a reflection on the day.

I found the conference extremely well organised and informative. It was useful both from a personal point of view, giving me alternative ideas for when we’ll retire, and professionally, providing me with a unique chance to reflect on the existing gaps in the efforts toward ensuring proper housing for everyone in Ireland that technology might help filling. I am already looking forward to the next edition of Housing Ourselves, which will take place in May 2018.

September 23 2017 | CollaborativeEconomy and Communities and Events | No Comments »

Summer in Siegen

For the third and last leg of my sabbatical, I decided to visit the University of Siegen, in Germany. I was here in July 2010, with a DAAD grant, and I really fell in love with the place. My colleagues here were among the founding members of our COST action, I hosted and supervised a few of their HCI master students in Limerick, and every time the chance occurs, we are organising events  together.

As I was spoiled back in 2010 (one of the secretaries found me a small studio overlooking the valley in Weidenau before I arrived), I was hoping I’ll be that lucky a second time. In the end, I had to be grateful to be accommodated in a small university guest apartment in Artur-Woll-Haus, as the semester is still in full swing and my efforts on online rental sites didn’t pay off so far.

On Friday – my first day at the university, I had a full day, meeting up with my hosts, making plans for my stay and joining my colleagues on a visit to a potential city centre venue for FabLab Siegen.IMG_20170602_140848

I also found a nice cafe by the river with good wi fi. IMG_20170602_162848

I recognised some places from my previous stay, and I discovered some new ones.IMG_20170605_210757

I am really looking forward to the next two months!

June 07 2017 | sabbatical | No Comments »

End of stay in Great Britain

I am back in Limerick for a while, enjoying my own home’s comfort and tweaking things in the garden. The last two months in the UK were demanding and I did a lot of travelling around.
It’s good to be home for a while, reflecting on what I saw and writing.



In the mean time, there are a lot of interesting events happening in my own university – a briefing about joint EPSRC- SFI projects, an information session on the Draft Societal Challenges 6 Work Programme 2018-2020 (part of Horizon 2020).

My colleagues running the Social Media for Social Good module had the idea to submit a paper to the Shannon Consortium Teaching and Learning Symposium about our experience teaching this module over the last two years. Our paper “Building Resilience Through Experiential Learning: A Case Study of Undergraduate Engagement with Community Organisations”, co-authored with John Lannon, Sheila Killian, Liam Murray and Stephanie O’Riordan has been accepted and will be presented at the symposium this month.

May 04 2017 | Limerick and sabbatical | No Comments »

Two talks in two days

This week has been extremely busy: I had not one, but two talks at the University of Sussex.

The first one was an intervention at the final of Becky Stewart’s talk on e-textiles and movement. The event was organised by Pollie Barden from the Creative Technology research group and took place on the 5th of April 2017. Here’s the Eventbrite presentation of Becky’s talk:

Dr. Becky Stewart: Sensing Movement with Textiles

Dr. Becky Stewart will be sharing some of her work in e-textiles that covers a range of applications and explorations. She works with e-textiles and signal processing to build interactive, body-centric wearable computing systems. These systems often incorporate performance, fashion, music and/or design.

Becky is a lecturer in the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science at Queen Mary University of London. She was recently awarded the Daphne Oram Award Lecture for Digital Innovation. Becky was the co-founder of Codasign, a creative technology education company that ran workshops teaching kids and adults how to use technology to develop creative projects.

My short talk, titled  Textiles and Digital Technologies from an Interaction Design Perspective [slides here], brought together reflections from the Limerick Lace and ATTIRE projects on how one becomes a maker, also based on the discussions we had at the Making Laboratories workshop in Trento, and on my recent experience with attending the Textile Academy bootcamp.

On Thursday April 6th, I gave a presentation for the Creative Technologies research group as part of their regular lunchtime series of talks, titled Reflection on the role of co-design in a large-scale international collaboration  talk about the role played by co-design in the meSch project. I  spoke about co-design in meSch throughout the 4 years of the project and of the way co-design shaped the collaboration between designers, technologists and cultural heritage professionals.  The slides can be downloaded from here.

April 07 2017 | sabbatical | No Comments »

My first week at the University of Sussex

I am spending the second part of my sabbatical with Prof. Ann Light’s Creative Technologies Group at the University of Sussex. I will be in Brighton for March and April, hoping that spring will come soon and I will get to enjoy the atmosphere around here.  After spending the first week of March at the meSch final review and visiting Nottingham, I finally made it to Brighton.

On my 3rd day here, I got asked what is the difference between a sabbatical and a holiday. My definition of the sabbatical was that you get to do pretty much the same amount of work (meaning morning till evening!), but away from your desk and your home’s comfort. In a way, it’s a bit like that advice on actions that are supposed to keep dementia at bay- brush your teeth holding your toothbrush in the other hand, stand instead of sitting , open the door with the other hand, learn a different language. When one gets out of her own comfort zone and habits, there’s a need to rethink certain practices, to adjust to a new environment, and this helps make habits more visible.

On Monday at 8:45am I  got my visitor status and my IT account sorted, and I had a quick look around the campus. We even got to have lunch outdoors, as the weather was mild.



Tuesday got eaten in its entirety by writing a workshop proposal.  And then Wednesday I had my first meetings with members of the Creative Technologies Group, I had a Skype call with members of the Living Limerick initiative working on the April suite of events, and dedicated time to the budget of the new COST action.

It is interesting how the face-to-face meetings and the online ones alternated, how in one moment I was in my new context and then, out of the sudden, in the old, how I was getting to meet new people both online and face-to-face.

Half-way into my first week here, I realised that I need to plan the things I wanted to do- more reading, more writing – otherwise time will fly without me knowing!




March 16 2017 | sabbatical | No Comments »

End of meSch project

Our final meSch review marks the end of an era: over the last 4 years, I had the chance to collaborate with a fantastic group of designers, technologists, cultural heritage professionals and many others from 11 partner institutions in 5 different countries.
We were a relatively small team at the Interaction Design Centre, University of Limerick, and it was tough in the beginning. We were in charge with the Co-Design work package, which started on Day 1 of the project. We were lucky to have the support of our colleagues in Sheffield-Hallam University, and collaborate with the WAAG Society on co-design activities.meschNick
I was fortunate to have Laura Maye working with me for the whole 4 years of the project – she was an exemplary PhD student and received her PhD with flying colours in September 2016. We were joined by Fiona McDermott for part of the journey, who led the field work and data analysis and designed the excellent co-design resource. Having the chance to continue the collaboration with my friend and former colleague Lui Ciolfi, who was also Laura’s co-supervisor, was one of this journey’s highlights.

meSchAtlantikWallProf. Daniela Petrelli led and inspired this large team with passion and vision, and – with humour and patience, brought us together to achieve goals that seemed to me extremely tough to reach when we first started.meschgroup

Observing the authoring feast organised by WAAG in November 2016 and co-organising one in January in Limerick with Laura brought the confirmation that the meSch authoring tool is easy to use and understand by curators and gave us hope for its future.

meSchkitLast week, our final review ended with excellent results. There was a lot of joy, but also sadness that we got to the end of the 4 years. I will miss the meSch team – I gained so much experience, I made so many new friends, and had the chance to do such interesting work with them.

My hope is that we will continue to collaborate in our future efforts to meschmerise the world!

March 10 2017 | meSch and projects and sabbatical | No Comments »

House of Light

Last Friday evening, I decided to leave the house to go and attend  The House of Light Ritual - announced as an all night celebration of music and dance dedicated to Saraswati at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance. A nice warm atmosphere welcomed us, the Tower Theatre was completely open to the lobby (it was the first time I saw it like this), there was tea and coffee and quite a few people around.

Soon after 9, Matthew Noone, who organised the event, introduced Prof. Karaikudi S. Subramanian playing veena and Karaikudi Krishamurthy playing mridangam. Although I am a big fan of Indian music, I must confess I don’t know much about  Indian instruments. The sound was fascinating, and I wished they would never stop playing.

Next, Prof. Mel Mercier invited us upstairs to see, play and listen with the newly forged gamelan, made on order for the IWAMD by a Javanese gamelan maker. I witnessed a gamelan performance before ( it was the Cork City gamelan), but I have never been so close to one.  What Mel did with the volunteers was incredible, assigning to each one a rhythm and some sounds, until they sounded like an experienced, faultless orchestra. In the second half, students from the BA in Contemporary Dance went to perform a dance in the middle of the room, adding to the magic.

Back downstairs in the Tower Theatre, we listened to Praveen Patiballa  playing  carnatic flute and afterwards to a few of  Ceara Conway‘s amazing songs.

Liam O’Brien  was invited on stage next with his concertina. Toward the end, Matthew Noone joined him on stage playing the sarode .

I had to go home around midnight, as I felt really tired. The concert continued until the morning, and I’m sure there were plenty of other unique moments – so sorry I didn’t last longer! On the way home, I was thinking how lucky I am to live and work here, to have all these cultural confluences on my door steps, and to be able to join in from time to time. On the night, I heard about the new BA course in Performing Arts – World Music that is starting in September at IWAMD. So many opportunities – lucky those who will take this course!

February 04 2017 | arts and Limerick | No Comments »

MuseumFutures Lab Presentations

Yesterday, I was invited to a meeting of  the MuseumFutures Lab. The Lab is part of the  Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering and is associated with the Connected Everyday Lab of Prof. Elisa Giaccardi. Its focus is on exploring the future of museum experience design, looking at experiences that start before and last beyond the physical museum visit. Such experiences are connected to personal lives, activities that take place in schools, community spaces and other institutions. Arnold Vermeeren, the director of the Museum Futures Lab happened to be our guest last year for the Cultural Heritage Communities workshop organised in conjunction with Communities&Technologies 2015.

The work of several students and researchers associated with the Lab explores the role of the Internet of Things, DIY technology, the  Maker Movement and other current technology-related developments  in facilitating and stimulating the design of new experiences for museums and heritage places.

Some of the previous work done in the group includes:

Arnold invited specialists from two prestigious Dutch agencies involved in designing for museums (Fabrique and Tellart), an independent museum exhibit designer currently working with Royal Delft Porcelain, as well as a number of colleagues from IDE, to listen to presentations made by four postgraduate students currently working with different Dutch museums and attempting to design innovative experiences for their visitors.

The ideas were extremely diverse. They ranged from combining museum visits with making in an adjacent makerspace, to organising country side circuits of memorial houses including transportation and accommodation solutions, and designing joint museum experiences for visually impaired people accompanied  by friends or family.

After the presentations, we had a round of feedback for which pairs of specialists forming the audience had the chance to discuss separately with each of the students. It was a rewarding experience, as all these group discussions allowed us to exchange information in an efficient and intellectually stimulating way.

My time here at TU Delft proves to be very rewarding. My initial plan was to hide, read and write, but I am finding myself attending a lot of interesting events just because I happen to be here!

November 09 2016 | Events and sabbatical | No Comments »

Rotterdam Park Hackathon

Last weekend, I had the chance to join a Park Hackathon organised by my colleagues at TU Delft (OpenData Lab Rotterdam) as part of the CAPSS EU project Open4Citizens.
The participants came from different backgrounds: civic activists, public administration, communities around Rotterdam and researchers.

Four parks, all part of the envisaged Groene Connectie (the Green Connection) were targeted:


Before the hackathon, I had a bit of time to explore two of the parks. While Park 1943 is a “normal” park in an area with schools and apartment blocks, Dakpark is not your usual park. The municipality and the citizens had very different ideas about how to regenerate an area that was falling into dereliction: while the municipality wanted a long row of shops, the locals wanted a park. In order to reach a compromise, the park was built on top of the shops: that’s where the name- roof park – comes from.








The hackathon was meant to reveal what kind of data could be accessed, collected, shared, reused in order to respond to current needs and allow the collaboration to improve.

We started with presentations of  the parks  and their current problems on Friday afternoon. As most of the talks were in Dutch, I had to guess, look at slides and Google a lot to make sense of what was going on. When groups with mixed expertise formed, I joined the group working on the Dakpark. People were very nice to me and I finally got a summary of the previous discussions in English, but then people shifted naturally back to Dutch. Once tuned in, I realised I understood a lot more. For people who don’t use English frequently, switching can prove difficult.

After the end of the project that involved building the shops and the park, the municipality is claiming that from now on, it is the responsibility of the citizens/volunteer to maintain it and does not see supporting them as a priority. And although a lot can be done with volunteer work, infrastructural elements and other logistic issues are not so easy to deal with without any support whatsoever!

The details of what happened and what was discussed were thoroughly documented by the project team. What I want to share here are just my thoughts on this type of events. I am a big fan of barcamps, design jams, hackathons and so on, because they give you the chance to meet new people and learn new things outside of our academic environment. Most of the time, people choose to go to such events rather than feel obliged to attend.

But other than the fun and the networking, what is the value of such events?
In this case, the researchers committed to this type of work sessions as part of their project. They organised and documented everything, played the hosts, kept the time and so on.

IMG_20161105_122252 IMG_20161105_122301
Many of the attendees already knew each other, but it was also an opportunity, especially for the people talking on behalf of the organisations involved in park maintenance,

to tap into new types of expertise and get others to work on their problems for free.
An important finding was how efficient data is when you need to persuade someone, and how relatively easy it is to contribute to  open data repositories. Networking appeared as a natural solution for finding what kind of data exists out there in the open and how it can be made sense of.

It was interesting to watch people working in the public administration how they listened to problems – many times outside the remit of their own departments, and how knowing the administration inside-out, they were able to suggest creative solutions. Also, I noticed how their know-how was simply bursting out in response to the problems formulated – some things appeared as obvious to them, but they weren’t at all obvious for their group counterparts.

IMG_20161105_122314Over the two days, the possible solutions continued to change and evolve: what seemed a brilliant idea on day 1 was then rejected and reconsidered on the second day.

As an outsider, I wasn’t aware of the local war stories that people kept on mentioning, so I had to ask to find out the MacDonalds saga. For locals, it was impossible to imagine that someone wouldn’t be familiar with it! There was also the language barrier, which I haven’t encountered in a good while (not since I was working with Folkuniversitetet in Sweden many moons ago), but I was able to get the general gist. When I felt totally lost, I waited for the right moment to sneak in a question or to offer an idea in English.

There’s a special sort of energy at such events. I feel really involved and my neurons fire. I can’t speak about a hackathon addiction – like this young lady -but I never had a bad experience with a hackathon. There’s always stuff to do, interesting people to listen to, and some ideas that give you a sense of achievement.



In my case, this was simply field work. I was interested to see co-design at work in a different environment than cultural heritage. I looked for the pitfalls. As an outsider, it was easier to ask myself: “Who’s in control? Who benefits?”, keeping the work of Vines and his colleagues at the back of my head.

And parks, after all, are closely related to topics I relate to: sustainability, communities, DIY, growing and sharing food, planting fruit trees in cities and so on.

I am really grateful to Ingrid Mulder for embedding me in her team and giving me the opportunity to participate in this event while on sabbatical at TU Delft!

November 07 2016 | sabbatical | No Comments »

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