A Collective Framework for Sustainable Design

March 22, 2010




For a timely answer to the problem of sustainability, or how to provide for future generations, there needs to be shared accounting of our social and physical resources. Global supply chains touch countless people, each a potential contributor to our collective understanding. Unleashing this information could engage many more people in the invention of long-term solutions, or sustainable design.
This thesis proposes a framework for shared resource accounting through the democratization of sustainable design. Open communication channels make it possible to extend teaching, tools and information to a vast number of potential decision-makers. Contributing design solutions to a shared medium can build a collective assessment of resource flows and help to spread successful strategies.
As part of this research, a collective platform was built to support sustainable design. The web tool, Sourcemap.org, was evaluated in partnership with students, designers, businesses and governmental organizations. Pilot studies revealed the potential of this platform to help visualize social and environmental sustainability, to support discussion and diagnostics, and to provide valuable communications functionality.
The field studies informed a framework rooted in transparency and extensibility to foster trust in a collective pursuit. A symmetric interface offers multiple points of entry while providing consumers with the same capacities as content producers. A flexible architecture motivates a crowd-sourced approach to auditing. The framework informs and is informed by a partnership approach, where collaborative development extends useful features and information to novices and experts alike.


Hiroshi IshiiChris Csikszentmihályi William J. Mitchell Gregory Norris

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