Crowd Design – From Tools for Empowerment to Platform Capitalism (Birkhäuser 2017)

The digital revolution is interwoven with the promise to empower the user. Yet, the rise of centralized, commercial platforms for crowdsourced work questions the validity of this narrative. In Crowd-Design, Florian Alexander Schmidt analyses the workings and the rhetoric of crowdsourced work platforms by comparing the way they address the masses today with historic notions of the crowd. The utopian concepts of early online collaboration are taken as a vantage point from which to view and critique current and, at times, dystopian applications of crowdsourced work. The study is focused on the crowdsourcing of design tasks, but these specific applications are used to examine the design of the more general mechanisms employed by the platform providers to motivate and control the crowds.

Crowd-Design is as much about the crowdsourcing of design as it is about the design of crowdsourcing.

Digital Labour Markets in the Platform Economy
Mapping the Political Challenges of Crowd Work and Gig Work

Policy Paper for the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung FES 2016
PDF-Download for the English version.

agenda design


agenda design – Magazin für Gestaltung
Since 2015, I am editor-in-chief of the German print magazine agenda design, published twice a year by the Alliance of German Designers (AGD). With its thought-provoking essays by reknown writers such as Harald Welzer, Holm Friebe, Elvia Wilk and Birgit Bauer, the magazine understands itself as a counterpart to the flashy stream of daily design news. Every issue is devoted to a specif topic situated at the intersection of design, society and technology.

Issue #2 Grenzen (published in spring 2016 – buy in AGD Shop)
Issue #1 Sichtbarkeit (published in autumn 2015 – buy in AGD Shop)

Crowdwork – Zurück in die Zukunft? 420 pages book published at Bund-Verlag in cooperation with the IG Metall, giving an extensive overview of current political, Crowdwork – Zurück in die Zukunft?academic, ethical and technical perspectives on crowdsourcing and digital labour. I am co-editor, co-author of the publication and translator of all the English contributions ( the book is only available in German at the moment).

The Feeling of Control – or – The Revolution Will Not Be 3D Printed: Essay about some of the political implications of the maker culture, written for the conference Die Politik der Maker by the German Society for Design Theory and Research (DGTF), Hamburg, November 2013. The essay (in German) can be read here.

Mirti_Interviewed_by_SchmidtMassive Open Design Education: Mind the Gaps
– article about the potential role of so called MOOCs for the furture of design education. It will be published in a forthcoming book by El Ultimo Grito as part of the #PILOTS project (in which I took part in spring 2013), but I also published the article digitally here, in August 2013.

A Few Questions on Open Design Education: Florian A. Schmidt in conversation with Stefano Mirti – the article listed above is based on a longer interview with the design educator and design MOOC pioneer. I published the full interview from August 2013 here.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Why Crowdsourcing Needs Ethics – the third part in my “Dollar Trilogy” on the problem of exploitation in crowdsourcing. The paper was accepted for the International Workshop on Crowd Work and Human Computation in Karlsruhe, September 2013, and it will be published by IEEE.

For a Few Dollars More: Class Action Against Crowdsourcing – academic paper written for A Peer-Reviewed Journal About #BWPWAP, part of transmediale 2013. Here is a shorter updated version of the article, which was awarded the Core 77 Award for Writing & Commentary 2013.

Crowdsourcing Design: For a Fistful of Dollars – short newspaper article written for Researching BWPWAP – A Peer-Reviewed Newspaper, part of transmediale 2013. Here is the article.

Skype Glitch 2012Futuristische Pixelnostalgie: Die Gestaltung des Morgen am Beispiel der New Aesthetic – article for the issue Morgen of the German Froh! magazine, December 2012. Here is the English version.

The Edge of Our Thinking: Selected papers from the research student conference in art & design (editor). Royal College of Art, October 2012.
Interview on the the RCA website.

Schwarm/Hive: From Production for the Masses to Design by the Masses – article about, an online platform for crowdsourcing product design, in bauhaus issue 3: things, May 2012. Here is the English Version of the article.

London Calling: Experiment mit Tradition – article about design research at the RCA, published in design report issue 02/2012: Design forscht!, April 2012. Article as PDF (in German, 1,4MB).

Monster Soup Monster Soup: Making the Invisible Visible – article originally published in the peer reviewed online journal Un-making Things: A Design History Journal, December 2011. The article was awarded the third prize in the category Writing & Commentary at the Core77 Design Awards (Article in English).

Gamer as Designer – academic paper published in the peer reviewed journal Informatik Spektrum, with Danny Pannicke, September 2010. Article as PDF (German, 28okB).

Kritische Masse - erschienen bei form+zweck 2012

Kritische Masse – Critical Mass: Amateurs and Professionals in Design (co-author), book published by form + zweck in June 2010. Excerpt as PDF (German, 520kB).
Inteview im Deutschlandfunk.
Kritik von Birgit S. Bauer of

Nachspiel – journal with the proceedings of the conference Volkssport Design, pub. by Berlin School of Art, June 2010. Full Publication as PDF (German, 14,4MB).

Volkssport Design: live and let live? – article on crowdsourcing in design, published in eye issue 74, December 2009. Article online (English).

Flickering vs. Frugal – cover story for the design magazine form, issue 227, published by Birkhäuser, July 2009. Article as PDF (English and German, 6,3MB). essay and three reviews of virtual worlds for the book Space Time Play, Computergames, Architectur and Urbanism, published by Birkhäuser, October 2007
• Use Your Illusion: Immersion in Parallel Worlds – essay
Lego on Acid – review of Second Life
Been There Done That – review of  There
Money Makes the World go ‘Round – review of Entropia Universe

Design in Second Life – cover story for the design magazine form issue 215, pub. by Birkhäuser July 2007. Article as PDF (German and English 4,8MB).

Semantic Tectonics – 1st prize in the competition Reinventing the Virtual City,  awarded by Shrinking Cities & Arch+, 2007.  Essay and jury statement online (German and English).

parallelParallel Realitäten – book published by Niggli, Zurich, Dec. 2006 – awarded with the Wilhelm Braun-Feldweg Prize for design-criticism. Full text as PDF (German 1,2MB).

Kritik der realen Virtualität
Laudatio von François Burkhardt im design report (German)

Besprechung der Schriftenreihe Designkritische Texte auf Slanted (German).