Week 13 : Participatory Everything

Thanks, everyone, for an interesting and enjoyable session today on participatory “everything.” The audio recordings, photos, and slides from the session are in the OneDrive folder here.

We began by sharing the papers you had found on participation (in design processes), and it was good to see a diverse set of contexts for participation, approaches to participation, and participants in design – including drones, people with dementia, cyclists, co-creation, probes and toolkits, under-represented groups to name a few.

You then discussed the four set papers in your groups, including your own responses and interpretations of these papers, points of interest and (possible) confusion, and how they related to your previous understanding of participation and of related work in other areas. After a tiny re-shuffle, our groups and papers were:

Andrew, Jack ,Bobbie
Bjögvinsson et al., Design Things and Design Thinking: Contemporary Participatory Design Challenges

Alexandra,Peter,Sami, Hattie
Bossen et al., Evaluation in Participatory Design

Light & Akama, Structuring future social relations

Lyndsay et al., Empathy, Participatory Design and Dementia

You shared your thoughts on the set papers with everyone, and I noted a few responses on the whiteboard that could help us with the next task for the session – making maps/charts/plots/diagrams of how we could represent this ‘landscape of participatory design.’ I’ve added these notes to slide 20 of the presentation PDF. For me, each group highlighted some interesting to take into this mapping exercise:

About how, from different disciplinary perspectives and experiences, some of the principles and activities of participation seem obvious. Yet, for other disciplinary audiences need emphasising or risk misappropriation.

About how little participatory design has been evaluated and some assumptions about what is is participatory design is for (or about) that might be lost or less visible in these evaluations.

About the academic tendency to re-claim and re-invent terminology and then (perhaps) use it everywhere and risk the original intention being lost (Things, Thinging, infrasctures etc.). (And remembering to approach these terms with some criticality – how useful are they to you in understanding and describing your own research)

About how, when working with digital technology, design proposals soon get out of date and how can valuable learning from working with typically under-represented people be taken forward as technology changes.

The last half hour was spent devising and drawing your four ‘maps’ – and some rapid presentations of them to everyone as our allotted time ran out. It was brilliant to see four very different maps each illustrated different ways of unpacking this complex territory of participation in design and research (and not as one discipline, methodology, or method).

Andrew, Jack, and Bobbie presented their cycle of activities – with (design?) researchers spinning/facilitating in the middle until such point they could leave participants to it (having infrrastuctured their ongoing ‘design after design’?).

Alexandra, Peter, Sami, and Hattie reflected on the diverse geographic and cultural settings for their found papers, and highlighted how participation is context-specific and designers/researchers need to be sensitive to this in adopting and adapting their approach.

Colin Vasileois, and Agata presented us with a word cloud-type visualisation, which illustrated the more central values/principles of participation and – around the outside – those alternative conceptions which could misinterpret these value/principles by imposing more external/instrumental viewpoints.

And, Irina, Adam, and Mohaan visualised diverse approaches to participation as a series of spectra that individual papers/research/projects might fit along. And, a recognition of how participatory projects might fit across spectra not be single points.

So, some engaging and critical discussion about a complex topic. The above is some of what I took away from our session. I’d be interested to know what you have taken away – in relation to your own and others’ maps, and participation in general. Leave a comment if you have a moment…

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