Research in Progress: Co-production design in an age of planetary-scale computation: Analysing some

The intersection of co-production and co-creation requires some nuanced understanding. This is specifically relevant within the context of planetary-scale computation, a fascinating conceptual model/structure suggested by architect and computer science Professor, Benjamin Bratton.

This abstract highlights some of the aspects currently being investigated and forms part of a PhD research project on digital platform design.


In the analysis of innovation, new technologies cause new types of accidents and inversely, accidents lead to new technologies. This argument from Paul Virilio[1] is one of the triggers that influenced the development of Benjamin Bratton’s notion of planetary scale computation in the Post-Anthropocene. This fast-moving era of complexity, fluidity and ubiquity of the digital within our everyday reality (augmented and virtual included) is creating (or is being created?) by this accidental mega-structure (or composite mega accident) Bratton refers to as “The Stack” (Bratton, 2015). The Stack’s layers are defined as Earth; Cloud; City; Address; Interface and User. Bratton furthermore advances “digital design” as an example of one such accident.

The focus in this study is on the intersection of some of these digital design accidents and some of the inter-related layers of this “Stack” (of which the Digital Platform is a key emerging structural and conceptual feature and/or driver). Furthermore, co-production (and the related concept of co-creation) aims to analyse within this complex reality the role and impact of “Citizen as a co-implementer”, “Citizen as a co-designer” and “Citizen as an initiator” (Voorberg, Bekkers & Tummers, 2014).

Furthermore, it also aims to understand something of the manner in which human design, and particularly co-creation within and through the User layer, influences and impacts digital design of co-production processes, if at all.

In an age where humans seem to be losing control of design at an alarming pace to artificial means and autonomous methods[2], the design principles of digital platforms (as a fast emerging and increasingly dominant structural, organisational and process-engineering form) may very well be a key frontier in the battle for human retention of control over digital technologies. The tension between the power of the user and the power of the platform is an aspect that has not been investigated comprehensively in contexts where large proportions of the citizenry exhibit low digital skills (such as South Africa). This exploratory study aims to highlight some of these tensions.


Bratton, B.H. 2015. The Stack : On software and sovereignty. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Voorberg, W.H.W., Bekkers, V.J.J.M. & Tummers, L.G. 2014. A Systematic Review of Co-Creation and Co-Production: Embarking on the social innovation journey. Public Management Review. (July):1–25.

[1] Paul Virilio, “The Museum of Accidents,” trans. Chris Turner, International Journal of Baudrillard Studies 3, no. 2 (2006).

[2] For example:


Wouter Grove


University of the Western Cape/Vrije Universiteit Brussels

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