Back To The Land 2.0

This reading list is for students on the summer course I run together with Konstfack, in Sweden. These texts span new ways to think about food and food systems – how to be, as well as what to do, in a food context.

Download the Reading List ‘Back to the Land 2.0’


2022-07-28T16:41:38+00:00June 15th, 2022|Commoning, Handouts & Lists, Urban-Rural|

How To Thrive In the Next Economy: Preface to the Chinese edition

A cultural disconnection between the man-made world and the biosphere lies behind the grave challenges we face today. We either don’t think about rivers, soils, and biodiversity at all – or we treat them as resources whose only purpose is to feed the economy. This ‘metabolic rift’ – between the living world, and the economic one – leaves us starved … [continue …]

2019-05-20T19:15:55+00:00October 31st, 2018|Commoning, development & design, Knowing, most read, Urban-Rural|

When Tech In Care Is Evil

I spent the last two weeks in-and-around a care home in England that looks after people with dementia and terminal illness, and their families – including, this time, mine.

In four wings, each with 12 residents, 24/7 care is provided by teams of trained professionals who … [continue …]

2015-06-20T19:39:01+00:00June 20th, 2014|Caring, Commoning|

The Dementia Care Economy

Yesterday’s G8 Dementia Summit made much of the fact that millions will now be spent in a race to identify a cure or a ‘disease-modifying therapy’ for dementia.  The likely outcome will be the creation of a Dementia Industrial Complex – and the mass production of un-met expectations.A better way for nation states to spend money on dementia is in the … [continue …]

2015-06-20T19:50:49+00:00December 19th, 2013|Caring, Commoning, most read|

Transition Dogville

In Lars von Trier’s 2003 film Dogville (below) there is almost no set. Buildings in the town are represented by a series of white outlines on the floor. Dogville was a to-the-limit exercise in what von Trier calls ‘pure cinema’ – a commitment to use only real locations, and no special effects or background music, when making a film.

… [continue …]

2014-01-21T11:58:02+00:00October 4th, 2012|Commoning, most read, transition & design|

5% health: The risk of catabolic collapse and peak fat in modern health systems, what to do about them, and how design can help

I was emboldened, upon arriving at the Mayo Clinic ‘s Centre for Innovation last week, to learn that people with deep domain knowledge do not make the best innovators. I concluded that I was therefore well-qualified to warn one of the top academic medical centres in the world, each of whose … [continue …]

2015-06-20T20:13:27+00:00September 21st, 2011|Caring, Commoning, most read|

Of apocalypse and forest gardens

Three hundred people came to South Devon in England for the fourth gathering of the Transition Network. They were a modest cross section of the many thousands of people now involved in 330 official Transition initiatives (up from 170 this time last year) and many more less formal groups around the world that are ‘mulling over’ their participation.
… [continue …]

2012-04-02T16:05:18+00:00June 17th, 2010|Commoning, transition & design|

Tech push and social pull

I’ve been reading a special issue of Innovations called “Energy for Change: Creating Climate Solutions” which claims to be “as thorough a survey of energy and climate solutions as has yet been compiled”. (I’m not putting a link here because the publisher – naughtily – has changed a contents page into an order page since I wrote about the journal … [continue …]

2009-11-06T14:17:25+00:00November 6th, 2009|Commoning|


I’m sorry, but if I hear one more “expert” on the box describe the financial crisis as “psychological” I’m going to barf. I also heard a French commentator today blame “the redemption factor” – which sounds biblical, but apparently refers to the price being put on that huge red chunk of the pyramid (see story above) which seems to represent … [continue …]

2008-10-10T08:21:01+00:00October 10th, 2008|Commoning|

Work/Life balance

In January, as I do every year, I resolved to balance work and life in a more mature way. It’s now September 16th, and….well, we’re not quite there yet.

2008-09-16T16:19:18+00:00September 16th, 2008|Commoning|

Dott 07 wrap event

Before we close the doors at Dott 07 for the last time, the final Dott 07 Explorers Club will take place in Newcastle on Wednesday 12 March. We will look back at Dott projects and discuss: what did we learn? and what happens next? We’ll have updates from the community design projects, including news from the Eco … [continue …]

2008-03-08T14:57:07+00:00March 8th, 2008|Commoning|

Why our design festival has no things in it

The house is cold, someone keeps turning the lights off, and the greywater toilet is blocked again.
As a way of life, sustainabilty often sounds grim. The media don’t help: they tell us we have to consume our way to redemption. The shopping pages are filled with hideous hessian bags; and ads that used to be … [continue …]

2007-10-21T07:59:48+00:00October 21st, 2007|Commoning|

How to live well – but lighter

Picture 1.png
For three years now Doors has been involved in a Europe-wide project called EMUDE (it stands for “Emerging User Demands for Sustainable Solutions”. That’s European research for you!). A network of design schools, acting as ‘antennas’, has collected examples of social innovation in a wide variety of contexts. Many of these … [continue …]

2007-04-24T09:23:20+00:00April 24th, 2007|Commoning|

How the rich get … greener

I was looking for some data about the environmental impact of aviation and came across some good news! A website for us super-rich green folk called Helium lists luxury travel and real estate companies that promote eco-friendly travel. “You can spend over a $1,000 per night and sleep comfortably in the knowledge … [continue …]

2007-04-15T18:54:00+00:00April 15th, 2007|Commoning|

An angel called Pradsa

Are you shaping the tools or techniques that help other people shape their world? There is no job description for what you do. You mix dedication to social change, confidence with people and organisations, and technical knowledge or skills. You are part of a growing number of committed
people using innovation and ICT to help others work on social and political … [continue …]

2007-02-18T19:56:38+00:00February 18th, 2007|Commoning|

Recombinant innovation

“As 18-month-old Alexander Barham was wheeled into intensive care, his survival depended on the expertise of the medical specialists all around him and, in no small part, on the split-second precision of the Ferrari Formula One motor racing team”. A gripping story in the Telegraph describes how a major restructuring of the patient handover procedure resulted from the … [continue …]

2006-11-16T05:57:27+00:00November 16th, 2006|Commoning|

Service as a journey

Is service design the next big thing after e-everything? If the recent surge in books and conferences is a guide, service design is at least a meme – if not yet a mania.
The trouble is, it can’t possibly be new. Seventy percent of the UK economy is ‘services’, for goodness sake, so someone must have designed them. … [continue …]

2006-09-03T07:49:43+00:00September 3rd, 2006|Commoning|

Slow design seminar

The way of thinking and acting that Slow Food proposes goes well beyond food and food systems. The idea of “slow” brings tradition to life, and links the quality perceived in products with the social and environmental quality of their production, and places of origin. An international seminar on the design implications of the Slow Model takes place in Milan … [continue …]

2006-06-14T15:38:55+00:00June 14th, 2006|Commoning|

Chat about Aspen

Sorry ’bout the silence this last week,; I’ve been on the road. Still am, but Allan Cholnikov has started a discussion about what we are trying to achive with the Aspen Design Summit here. You don’t have to register or sign in, and you can choose to receive email for newly posted messages. Just click the Subscribe button when … [continue …]

2006-04-22T13:41:52+00:00April 22nd, 2006|Commoning|

Worker correspondents

More and more companies are using so-called “design ethnographers” to help them develop products in real-life situations (rather than in design studios). This has sparked debate about the ethics of using other peoples’ daily lives as raw material for product development. But is design ethnography new? At Doors 8 in New Delhi, Alok Nandi reminded us that … [continue …]

2006-04-03T14:39:38+00:00April 3rd, 2006|Commoning|

Hi, Protein!

Warm congratulations to one of our favourite and most respected newsletter-website things, Ninfomania aka Protein° Feed aka Protein° Supplement. Today, Protein celebrates it’s 300th issue, having first been published in September 1997 to 14 people. It is now enjoyed by an international audience of over 9,000 select subscribers. Go there, subscribe, push them to 10k as a birthday … [continue …]

2006-03-25T09:53:40+00:00March 25th, 2006|Commoning|

Active welfare in Helsinki

Emude, a consortium of design schools and research institutions – and Doors – has spent the last two years years looking at social innovation among creative communities in different parts of Europe. Having observed the emergence of what we call “active welfare” in many of these situations, we realise that new kinds of social infrastructure are needed to support it. … [continue …]

2005-12-31T13:02:17+00:00December 31st, 2005|Commoning|

Ethics, Inc

Only in America: ethics has become a business. In the wake of Sarbanes-Oxley legislation, passed in 2002 in the wake of financial scandals such as Enron and Tyco, a lot of companies are struggling to cope with the complexities of compliance. As James Hyatt writes in “corporations are rushing to learn ethics virtually overnight and, as they do … [continue …]

2005-11-07T11:33:45+00:00November 7th, 2005|Commoning|

Hungry and lonely

Is the collective intelligence of the web overrated? A couple of nights ago, 18 people turned up for dinner. We pushed three tables together and sat together around an irregular rectangle. It felt, to me at least, as if the shape and dimensions of the ad-hoc table did little to foster social interaction. So yesterday I spent two hours failing … [continue …]

2005-08-11T07:30:40+00:00August 11th, 2005|Commoning|

Authorship and design

An argument about authorship has once again overshadowed discussion of what matters about design. No sooner had Design Council director Hilary Cottam won the 2005 Design Museum Designer of the Year award, than an article by Deyan Sudjic in The Observer reported that an architect is furious about the award, and that a head teacher has described … [continue …]

2005-06-14T16:13:30+00:00June 14th, 2005|Commoning|

Of politics and Pimms

A Pimms-enhanced party at Demos, in London, was held to launch a new strategy for the organization called Building Everyday Democracy. According to the think tank’s director, Tom Bentley, “politics is fighting a losing battle against forms of theatre and spectacle that are more entertaining, and forms of conversation and social exchange that are more meaningful to citizens. Without … [continue …]

2005-06-07T13:05:43+00:00June 7th, 2005|Commoning|

Edda scissorhands

A wondferful profile by Lynn Barber in Sundays’s (UK) Observer features the career of ‘The Scissor Sister’ or ‘human Google’ Edda Tasiemka who, after 55 years, is selling her amazing cuttings library and retiring. ‘Whizzy management types are fond of telling us that nowadays you can find everything on the internet’ writes Barber, ‘but actually it is rare … [continue …]

2005-03-14T09:17:25+00:00March 14th, 2005|Commoning|

Markets for “slivers of time”

Online auctions are booming. The phenomenon has been been labelled the ‘march of the micro-sellers’. But could sites like eBay, with its 105 million users, be harbingers of a more important transformation, when individuals start to exchange time and services online? Wingham Rowan in the UK is developing the technical and institutional infrastructure for Neighbourhood e-Markets (NEMs) … [continue …]

2005-02-11T07:04:11+00:00February 11th, 2005|Commoning|

Project Clinics at Doors 8

A core element will be Project Clinics (on the Wednesday and Friday). In these clinics, experts gathered together for Doors will evaluate real world projects and, we hope, help teams refocus their work in light of the lessons learned in the rest of the event.
We organised a similar event in Amsterdam in November and have incorporated the lessons learned … [continue …]

2005-01-04T08:57:35+00:00January 4th, 2005|Commoning|

Uxorious design

Speaking of glossaries, I found another one in a British report about People Centered Design (PCD). This glossary, which is much shorter than the CHI one I mention below, runs briskly from AHRB (Arts and Humanities Research Board) to UX. The latter stands here for User Experience – although UX also reminds my married scrabble-playing self of the word … [continue …]

2004-12-20T11:01:07+00:00December 20th, 2004|Commoning|

All together now

There’s renewed interest in ensemble theatre as a form of organisation. A meeting of theatre directors and producers in the UK last month opened with this quote from Joan Littlewood, in 1961: ‘I do not believe in the supremacy of the director, designer, actor – or even of the writer. It is through collaboration that the knockabout art of the … [continue …]

2004-12-09T09:40:39+00:00December 9th, 2004|Commoning|

Civil Communities of Practice

Back to the soft stuff. “Might social problems that communities confront be structured as the kind of knowledge creation and/or problem solving that the open source software community has found new ways to solve?”. So asks Pekka Himanen (author of “The Hacker Ethic”) and colleagues in a recent report. An essential component of such an approach would be an … [continue …]

2004-12-04T17:56:55+00:00December 4th, 2004|Commoning|
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