Perspectives on sharing

They come from different parts of the world – the students taking LiU’s newly established master’s programme in design. Malin Müller from Kiruna and Linqi Cao from Beijing have started their studies in design by trying to define what the concept of “sharing” truly involves. 

Malin Müller och Linqi Cao

“The first task they were given was to sort out the mishmash of sharing services, and to determine the difference between a new business model and a sharing solution,” says Stefan Holmlid, professor of design.

The students were not, however, served up a definition of ‘sharing’.
“I felt a bit frustrated in the beginning, but now I just find it exciting to not have a finished solution pushed onto us. We have to think it out ourselves,” says Linqi Cao.

Education in China is more structured, and the freedom for innovative thinking is one of the things she has come to value in Sweden, in addition to the music. Linqi Cao is an aficionado of the Swedish rock group Kent.

“She knows all of the texts by heart – in Swedish,” laughs Malin Müller.

Found the programme at Facebook

Malin Müller is herself from the very north of Sweden and found out about the programme from Facebook.

“It appeared in my feed: ‘Maybe you’re interested in this...’ And I was. But this was the day before the application deadline, so I had to cobble together an application quickly. Malin Müller och Linqi Cao Malin Müller och Linqi Cao Photo credit: Monica WestmanAnd now I’m here, and it’s a bit bewildering,” she says.

The group of students, which includes also Menno from the Netherlands and Malin, who is studying for a master of science in design and product development, started by creating their own framework for what sharing can involve.

“Our discussions were really interesting. We all had completely different perspectives, and Malin could provide input about technical aspects. We usually started off in complete disagreement, but started to approach each other as the discussion progressed. We have learnt a great deal by working out the framework together, and then comparing it with what has been published previously,” says Malin Müller.

Interactive book

The whiteboard displays their diagram with four quadrants, with different sharing services placed into the quadrants.

“We have classified them from commercial to altruistic on one axis, and from services with passive participants to services that require collaboration on the other axis,” explains Malin Müller.

They show examples of sharing services and their locations in the diagram. The news service Omni ended up in the passive and commercial quadrant as did also Hertz free-ride (in which people drive rental cars back to their location of origin free of charge). “Share a meal”, in which a person cooks too much food and invites other people to join him or her, may have started as altruistic sharing that required collaboration, but it has now become a commercial activity. Purely altruistic sharing services that have been included in the diagram are, for example, the homework help given by LiU students, and language teaching provided by pensioners for people who have newly arrived in Sweden.

“We’re producing material intended to be the start of an interactive book: we want it to be a living document that can also be a platform for the design of services in the future,” Malin Müller tells us.

The next task is to consider the concept of ‘commons’. Stefan Holmlid has drawn some squiggles on the whiteboard to get things going. Not easy to interpret, but it’s enough to get the students fired up with enthusiasm.

The atmosphere is happy, friendly and still expectant – remember that these students have only been working together for a few weeks.

Master in Design

Twelve students were admitted to LiU’s first international master’s programme in design. Approximately half chose the “Visual Media” track, while the remainder were equally distributed between “Transformative Service” and “Sustainable Futures”. All 12 are involved in a project centred on food waste. One aspect that permeates the complete design programme is the need to get involved with various types of societal problems and suggest solutions.


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