[urban interfaces] research group at Utrecht University

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13 - 14 June 2024
Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam

Workshop & panel “Relational Interfaces” June 13-14 2024”

[urban interfaces] is a co-organizer of this event:

Friday, June 14th | 09:30 – 17:30 (CEST) | Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam

Organized by Dark Matter Labs, The research project Charging the Commons at the Civic Interaction Design Research Group at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences and Zöop, in cooperation with the Focus Area Governing the Digital Society at Utrecht University.


The ecological crisis we currently face can arguably be traced to how we conceive of our relationships with the world around us, structured around human-centric ownership, control, and dominion. So how can we reimagine civics to recognise the deeply entangled relationships we humans have with each other, and with the more-than-human world, from living things to earth systems? And how can we imagine these relationships in the spirit of stewardship and commoning? These worldview shifts are the core mission of Radicle Civics at Dark Matter Labs.

To explore these questions, Dark Matter Labs are currently designing ‘relational interfaces’ –  social and technological infrastructures, tools, models, and protocols to help us practise these ideas, by bridging the gap between humans and the complex, entangled world we exist in. As a result, we will require new theories of the commons: how do we organise a commons that includes more-than-human agents? And by moving from bounded areas to relational networks, how do we balance between the situatedness and unboundedness of ecosystems? In the workshop we will address these question with a focus on Buitenplaats Brienenoord – Testing ground for the future.

The workshop will be preceeded by a public panel discussion on this theme at Nieuwe Instituut on Thursday June 13th, 19:30–21:00.

Questions we are exploring

  1. How do we organise a commons that includes more-than-human agents?
    1. By moving from bounded areas to relational networks, how do we balance between the situatedness and unboundedness of ecosystems?
    2. How do we frame the language and interactions of this complex way of being together? To what extent do we borrow or deviate from existing social, legal, governmental, political framings/metaphors?
    3. How do we make complexity intuitive?
    4. How do we represent more-than-human agents?
  2. How do we make decisions in a more-than-human commons?
    1. How do we build consensus around conditions for collective thriving?
    2. What happens when the conditions to thrive are in conflict with that of others? Or between individuals and the collective?
    3. How do we deal with breaches and failures to deliver on responsibilities towards creating for collective thriving?


  • To codesign new theories of the commons that include more-than-human actors, and focus on relationality.
  • To explore how interaction and interface design can realise these new theories of the commons, building on Dark Matter Labs’ Stewardship Agreement app.


  • 9:00-9:30 – Arrivals and Coffee
  • 9:30-10:30 – Introduction
  • 10:30-13:30 – Group Workshop Round 1
  • 13:30-14:30 – Lunch (provided by Het Nieuwe Institut)
  • 14:30-16:30 – Group Workshop Round 2
  • 16:30-17:30 – Conclusions

Interested in participating?
Send an email with a brief motivation to Martijn de Waal: b.g.m.de.waal [AT] hva.nl

Radicle Civics

Radicle Civics in Dark Matter Labs is working on prototypes that will help us realise the three critical worldview shifts we proposed by creating new systems of civics that embody these worldviews. In essence, we are working towards systems of civics that are ecocentric, designed for complexity, and are decentralised by design. We believe the long term vision of this is a system that sees the world as agents in complex relationships with one another, and encourages common stewardship for the health of the whole system.


Charging the Commons

Charging the Commons is a 2-year research project (SIA Raak-mkb) from the AUAS Civic Interaction Design and Caradt that investigates how community values can be articulated, and translated into designs for the organisation of an urban commons.

One of the central questions emerging from Charging the Commons is how the technological infrastructures (e.g. digital platforms) in our society can be designed in more relational ways, expressing our deep entanglements as humans with each other and the world around us, allowing us to take care of the world in relations of mutual care. (e.g. through commons, zoöps, cooperatives, etc). We see this as an alternative pathway to the future, in comparison with the dominant current development models where our tech infrastructures address us as individuals, and express our relations mostly in transactional ways. In that vision infrastructures and the resources they make available are mostly presented as services that we can enjoy as individual consumers. How can we reintroduce ‘care’, ‘stewardship’, and ‘relationality’ as core principles in our society, at the levels of institutions, infrastructures and practices?

The zoöp is based on the premise that the global climate crisis and ecological devastation are the effects of an economic system that has systematically put human interests above non-human interests: zoöps strengthen the position of non-humans within human societies, stimulate ecological regeneration or quality of life for multispecies communities (that include humans) and counter extractivist dynamics.

[Urban Interfaces]
The workshop is co-organized with the Utrecht University-based research group [urban interfaces], and the special interest group Inclusion in the Datafied City, as part of the Focus Area Governing the Digital Society. It is part of a longer-running collaboration between AUAS and UU on ‘critical city-making’ and creative urban methods.