Figuring Things Out Together

Anja Groten

Doctoral thesis

November 24, 2022

Janneke Wesseling
Florian Cramer
Femke Snelting

Available at:
Leiden University Repository



Figuring Things Out Together: On the Relationship Between Design and Collective Practice

Anja Groten investigates matters of collectivity, drawing from the experience of working with the Amsterdam-based collective Hackers & Designers (H&D)*.

The main thesis of Groten's research is that conventional design vocabularies cannot sufficiently express and account for collectivities' resistance to fixation and stabilization. Collective design, according to Groten, challenges notions of individual authorship, differentiations between disciplines, product and process, user and maker, friendship, and work relations. While collectives shape particular affiliations and commitments, design approaches, and aesthetics, they also require perspectives on working and designing together that resist progress-based understanding of a design process.

Collective design practices are situated. They are site, context, and time-specific, and so are their various expressions. Groten's research project makes the thresholds of collective practice legible by discussing the ways collectivity weaves together a range of places, legacies, objects, and people across practices, disciplines, geographies, and timelines. By means of several case studies, Anja Groten argues that a fragmentation of social and work relations is as much a characteristic of collective design practices as its effort to sustain long-term relationships.

Groten's research resonates in 'First, Then…Repeat.' a self-published on and offline publication produced in collaboration with the Hackers & Designers collective.

*H&D self-organizes activities at the intersection of technology, design, art, and education with a focus on hands-on learning and collaboration between practitioners from different fields. Along with organizing workshops, people involved with H&D produce on and offline publications and build open source tools and platforms.



Photos of the workshop program ‘First, Then…Repeat. Workshop scripts in practice’ presented at Page Not Found from 24 – 27 November 2022. The publication, installation (built with the fanfare display system), and workshop program are part of the artistic research project of designer, educator, and Hackers & Designers member Anja Groten at PhDArts and the Making Matters research project.

'First, Then…Repeat. Workshop scripts in practice' is an on and offline publication that assembles self-published and unpublished workshop scripts that evolved in and around the collective ecosystem of Hackers & Designers (H&D). H&D has been organizing workshops since 2013, and along the way has established social-technical affinities that are loose and stable, temporary and ongoing. 

H&D met and befriended many practitioners and sister organizations since, and got acquainted with manifold, peculiar pedagogical formats, and experimental approaches to working, learning, and being together. This publication derived from an enthusiasm for the various ways collective learning environments take shape. It grew out of a curiosity for the ways that such practices are shared across different localities, timelines, and experiences.

Access the online publication here
The printed publication is available upon request via info@hackersanddesigners.nl

Photography by Steven Maybury