Prototyping transitional practices for the design of postindustrial infrastructures.

Prototyping transitional practices for the design of postindustrial infrastructures.

‘Transtructures’ is a term coined to identify both a new type of service innovations as well as the practice necessary to conceive them. They link across different systems, actors and networks, contingently adapting to local situations and needs, serving different purposes and practices. Their platform and ‘code’ are flexible and adjustable to different contexts without the need of being re-invented every time. Thus their design is not really achievable through accustomed practices developed to address the needs mass production and standardisation. To succeed in their configuration the "the designer's attention need to shift": from designing new product and services at the front-end of existing systems only, to infrastructures and their foundations.



This dissertation is about ‘transtructures’, a term coined to describe new kinds of infrastructures that are more attentive and responsive to the needs of contemporary society, its emerging economies and technological capabilities. The purpose of this inquiry is to begin to explore the character and possibilities of a design practice that could guide responsibly and ethically the transition of existing industrial infrastructures towards these new configurations: what processes it could follow, and what materials it could include. Through a series of design experiments in the areas of logistic and telecommunication, I started to prototype and develop a programmatic framework for a ‘redirective’ design practice, which is aimed at engaging publics with infrastructural issues. Design probes and speculative mockups have been employed to express and materialize present and future infrastructural configurations, opening them up to public scrutiny and participation. The premise of this work is fairly simple: if we want to provide more citizen-centered solutions to emerging social demands, we need to explore what changes are possible, and even required, within the industrial systems that currently frame our possibilities for implementing such innovations. Thus, certain design interventions will be necessary to allow people outside these systems to understand and relate to these networks and to identify possibilities for their transformation.  The result of this inquiry is the early ‘prototype’ of what a practice for redirecting and transitioning towards the design of such postindustrial infrastructures could be like. In particular, it exemplifies how design may inquire into the artificial space of industrial infrastructures and explore opportunities for their reconfiguration toward more contextually adaptive forms and functions. 




The public defense took place on Thursday, the 7th of April, 2016 at 13:00  in the Auditorium of the Umeå Institute of Design.  A summary of the dissertation by Cameron Tonkinwise, Carnegie Mellon University, is available here (it starts at 16'00"). 


Cameron Tonkinwise, Director of Design Studies, School of Design, Carnegie Mellon University.


Maria Hellström Reimer, Professor in design theory and practice,  Högskola, Malmo Univeristy.

Tuuli Mattelmäki, Associate Professor, School of Art, Design and Architecture, Aalto University.

Lars Westin, Professor and Director of the Centre for Regional Science at Umeå University