Jens Middel

Suppose you want to make people aware of grave human rights abuses in a faraway country. Suppose you also want to convince them to take action against those abuses. And suppose, finally, that you want to interest even groups who aren’t particularly idealistic. How do you pull it off? FairPhone is an answer to this question – and open design plays a crucial role.

To create and promote the world’s first fair mobile phone, together. One that can easily compete with today’s best and most sharp-looking phones. This is FairPhone’s  SOCIAL DESIGN objective – or better said: it’s the common goal of the people visiting this interactive online community. Here, men and women from all over the planet pool their design skills,  KNOWLEDGE campaign ideas and social concerns. In the process of trying to make a fair mobile phone, participants eventually realize that they’ll need certain key minerals for the phone’s production – and that phone brands have so far refused to reveal where these minerals came from, or are clearly retrieving them from African mines where working conditions are deplorable.  TREND: SCARCITY OF RESOURCES FairPhone will facilitate both the participants’ search for better mines and their petition to phone brands to contract those better mines.

The Call for Interaction

The keyword in FairPhone is ‘together’. It is, after all, a community of people participating in a co-creation CO-CREATION process. It is not a traditional process, though; there is no-one hovering over the contributors, deciding who responds to whom or who does what. The only top-down coordination on the project is that the initiative presents ‘challenges’: specific design and campaign problems for visitors to solve. Contributors can choose for themselves which ideas and designs they send in, and have permission to freely use other people’s entries as building blocks – just as their ideas and designs in turn might form the basis of other, future contributions. FairPhone is interactive, co-creational, peer-to-peer  CO-CREATION and open. According to its founders, this is exactly what makes the project so attractive to so many people – even the ones who usually aren’t interested in taking part in idealistic initiatives.

The Call for Freedom

The founders in question are: Waag Society, a foundation that develops creative technology for cultural innovation; NiZA, an NGO, that fights for equal rights and fair distribution of wealth; Schrijf, a company specializing in creative communication concepts and text products.

Their basic assumption is that men and women in today’s society may be more individualistic than ever, but are nevertheless social and creative creatures at heart. People still want to belong; they just want to choose a community for themselves, be free to decide when or where to participate in it and make a unique, individual contribution to the group’s goals. They also want their participation to be challenging: to let their interaction with others stimulate their own personal development.

The Call for Justice

FairPhone taps into this modern mentality: by creating an internet community  COMMUNITY that people can enter and leave at will; by inviting and enabling each person to use their own creative talents in completing a collective project; and by posting design and campaign challenges online, inviting participants to comment and build on each other’s ideas. FairPhone also appeals to idealists, because it follows consumers’ growing call for corporate responsibility and transparent production lines. The project is not primarily about developing a prototype of the first fair mobile phone. Rather, it is about bringing people together, inspiring all telephone brands to ‘go fair’ and fighting injustice the most effective way possible: together, as a collective.


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