What does the future of work mean to you?
Having worked a lot on design for social innovation, I’ve seen that the constellation of new initiatives we see emerging everywhere is very diverse, yet they have something in common. They all challenge some ideas that have been basic to modernity – the idea of time, the idea of space, the idea of relationships and the idea of work. What they share is that they overcome the traditional break between what work is and what is considered free time. This creates a distribution between what paid work is and something you do because you like it. Those who work in this way can be quite diverse, so each has an ecology of different work held together.
Many people, myself included, think that this will be the future of work. Imagine that throughout our lives we have different moments in which we have different combinations of work. This could be work we are paid for at a certain level that is socially acceptable. The work could be a project that I do because I like it a lot, for which I would like to be paid but not necessarily at market rates. And the work that I do for free simply because I like to do it. And during the life of a person these three varieties of work could be combined in different ways depending on the stage of life.
One of the key points made in John Thackara’s most recent book, How to Thrive in the Next Economy, is that solutions to global issues are articulated at the local level in order to find viable approaches on the ground. How have you addressed this interface between the local and the global in your new book, Design, When Everybody Designs?
Well, again, I’d like to start from a phenomenological observation. Many people, such as myself and John Thackara, as well as many people from diverse ethical and cultural backgrounds, share the idea that in order to escape from the traps that we currently find ourselves in, we have to restart from a certain view of the local.
And I would say – what is the local? You cannot talk about the local without talking about the community that inhabits it. So the local is not only a physical space without meaning, the local is a physical space plus the people that live in that space. They are in some way related to this space, they give it meaning and you have a place because it’s a space with some meaning. So for me, the discussion about the local is always a discussion about the relationship between people and between people and place. And given that people are connected, immediately all these places are connected, and therefore the local and global come together. But the starting point is to rediscuss what is the local and what are the community that lives in those places. This is in my book but this is a topic that I’m developing more and more in this period. For me it is fundamental to ask what are the communities today in order to better understand the places. Because we all, John Thackara, myself and many other people talk about the importance of community and place, but very often when we talk about this we refer to the community and place of the past. Or at least mentally, people think of communities as being stable, homogeneous, rooted in a place, relatively closed. This kind of community and place basically does not exist anymore and today the people talking about this are normally the right wing.
Therefore for us outside of the right wing movement, it’s crucial to better understand what we mean when we talk about community and place. To make the story short, for me it’s a kind of ecosystem of interactions that are sufficiently fluid that you don’t have to buy the overall package. You don’t have to enter into a community that is rooted in this place and this is your destiny for the next period. You have the possibility to have several other layers of relationships, you can choose how to organise it, you can enter and you can exit. All this could have some relationship with the place but without being black and white, without having to make this kind of choice, maintaining a certain kind of fluidity. I think that if we consider the evidence of experience, the communities and places that are emerging from social innovation are very similar to this one. They are not going back to the village of the past with the community of the village of the past. It’s creating networks that are open, that can be linked to a place but also linked to something else, and this is my view of community and place.