27.2.13

Primitive Free Design

In the past, all creators were considered as artisans. It wasn't until 500 years ago that the first artists emerged from their works and escalated to a more privileged place inside of our societies. In that primitive environment, many elements related to creativity came together "naturally", that is, with no established method or restriction, creating the possibility of a design configuration without limites that allowed the blooming of cultural development at a local scale: a naturally open design.

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There's this example that I'm always interested on, which occurs at Nahuizalco, a western city of El Salvador. Its principal source of income consists of design and manufacturing of wooden objects: small decorative handcrafts, utensils and furniture. The artisans of this place have acquired their skills through different sources, most importantly being local innovation, mutual influence within the system and external influences.

Nowadays things don't work in the same way, due to the 'development' such as the vision of private property for creativity, and to the creation of systemic restrictions to the mutual influence between creators. Some of the conditions that limit this multidimensional configuration of innovation are:



1. The denial of innovation's collectivity
As I said at the beginning, creative expressions have come from being one more element of society to hold a superior status. The romantic vision of a crazy genius that conceals himself in his room until he finds epiphany took a fundamental part in this vision, and it hasn't been but until recent research on social sciences regarding the role of society as a context for innovation that have allowed to deny (at least academically) this idea. For example, it may be necessary to analyze all external influences to the individual, which implies that the act of creation os more social than we once believed.

2. The partial or total closure of knowledge and learning pathways
One of the main aparent problems within an open system is (many times blatant) plagiarism of works. For example, for ancient societies, one of the methods of recopilation of cultural information is the geographical comparison of artistic expressions to draw a timeline between similar works by different artists. To be honest, plagiarism is one of the principal mediums for artistic development among artisans, to the extent that in many cases there is very few variation between artistic expressions by different authors. The solution to this, according to many people, is to close processes and even products to other producers, isolation of particular styles and the creation of competitive advantages through trade secrets. At the same time, this slows down the collective creation and rises the costs of production, not to mention the fragmentation of a social collective identity.

3. Appropriation of artistic expressions through intellectual property
While there are many different scopes that justify intellectual property, the most arguable consists of the rewarding for the creator who has invested effort for the creation of his works. However, from a social point of view, from a social point of view, a great part of this knowledge and effort is based on the influence exerted by the environment, hence also the valuation of effort and validity of property as it is assessed nowadays. Innovation was possible previously without the need for restrictions to the use of works, as in many cases the copying (internally or from external systems) became important for innovation, and continues to be to this day. The fashion industry is an example of how creation can maintain itself within a trade with no need to appeal to intellectual property, increasingly allowing the remix of all types of influences.


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In conclussion, open design offers a road that has already been explored by society. It aims at the creation and distribution of influences, and the inclusion of the creator as a protagonist and member of the society at the same time, as long as the masses can also become protagonists of the very same stories at the same time. Sharing is caring.

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