Ezio Manzini and Carla Cipolla


In the framework of the ServDes Conference in Milano, next June, DESIS will also organise and coordinate (the 19th June afternoon) a workshop. Here below we anticipate a summary of its introduction. Please have a look and, if you are planning to come to the ServDes conference, sign up for it. If not, please, send us your feedback and thoughts on the topic it proposes (to info@desisnetwork.org)

20 years ago we started to talk about the upcoming service society. Now the service society is here but, at least in its mainstream, it is entirely different from what we had imagined. It is a fluid mesh of interactions colonised by neoliberal ideas and practices in which services are evolving towards a new form of servitude: “the state of being completely subject to someone more powerful” (Oxford Dictionary). That is, for what the new services are concerned: services based on encounters where one of the interlocutors (the service deliverer) is utterly subject to the power of platforms, i.e. of the algorithms on which it is based and, behind it, of the platform owners.

Until now, criticisms of this painful state of things have been mainly made discussing the economic environments in which it happens. That is, the platform economy (i.e. the economy based on digital platforms) and the deriving gig economy (“a way of working that is based on people having temporary jobs or doing separate pieces of work, each paid separately, rather than working for an employer” – Cambridge Dictionary).

In this DESIS Workshop, we intend to discuss the implications of all this regarding service design and of design for social innovation.

To start this discussion, we will propose two working hypotheses and some related questions:

  • The new servitude is the results of a user-centred design carried to extremes. That is, to “serve” the user at best-regarding efficiency and costs, at the expenses of the service deliverer, that is reduced – in fact – at the state of servitude.  If so: should the notion of user-centred design be abandoned to adopt a user-and-deliverer-centered one? Alternatively, imagining users and delivers as part of a broader community, should it be shifted towards a community-centred design?
  • The new servitude highlights how much the service encounters are also an issue of power: the power of each interlocutor (including service user, service deliverer and platform owner).  If so: can design help in creating conditions for a fair balance of power between them? What could be, in this case, the service designer’s power?

What we would like to do is to start from these working hypotheses and questions to discuss if and how the new generation of collaborative services that in this same period, driven by the transformative social innovation, have emerged, could give directions on how to oppose the gig economy main trend and the new servitude it generates.

19 June, Tuesday, 14-15:30.

Politecnico di Milano, Campus Bovisa Candiani

|Via Giuseppe Candiani 72 – Milano

(to confirm the assigned room please verify the final conference program)

ServDes conference: http://www.servdes.org/conference-2018-milano/

News about the DESIS assembly, here.