Meeting 4/13/11: Zhu Li, Visiting Researcher from Milan – A meta-design model to support creative, collaborative design among distributed multidisciplinary teams

The ever-growing complexity of design projects needs the collaboration of multidisciplinary design teams. Communication gaps however arise between stakeholders who belong to different design communities due to differences in cultures, backgrounds and modes of communication. Moreover, the co-evolution of design communities and their systems requires an open environment to support emerging needs. The Hive-Mind Space (HMS) model has been proposed based on the Software Shaping Workshop (SSW) to support diverse design teams’ collaboration and communication in an evolving manner. The model introduces boundary objects as a means to support design teams’ communication, provides localized habitable environments and tools for design teams to tailor the system’ according to their situated practices. The potential for layered participation gives access to different levels of tailorability and system complexity.

To reflect some key features of the HMS model, MikiWiki, a work-in-progress prototype has been developed. MikiWiki combines the functionalities of traditional wikis with End User Development activities and meta-design concepts, focused within the HMS conceptual framework. By providing a set of basic boundary objects’ building blocks, end users can remix, modify and create their own boundary objects to enhance their communication and creativity. In addition, MikiWiki provides a common collaboration context and provides opportunities for design teams to shape and evolve their own environments, tools and practices, while being aware of activities of others. By implementing the HMS model, we also hope to be able to evaluate the effectiveness of the HMS model, the technical feasibility of the meta-design system, and to discover new design opportunities for supporting collaboration.


Zhu Li received her Bachelor degree in Architecture from the Xi’an University of Architecture and Technology in China. She also obtained an M.Arch Studies degree in Advanced Architecture Studies from the University of Sheffield and a M.Sc degree in Design and Digital Media from the University of Edinburgh, earning distinctions in both. Zhu Li is currently a PhD student at the Department of Computer Science and Communication (DICo) of the University of Milan. She is also a Marie Curie early stage researcher. Her current research is investigating End-User-Development and meta-design approaches for creative problem solving in cultural