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The Design of Pseudo-Participation

Victoria Palacin, Matti Nelimarkka, Pedro Reynolds-Cuellar, Christoph Becker

Participation is key to building an equitable, realistic and democratic future. Yet a lack of agency in decision making and agenda-setting is a growing phenomenon in the design of digital public services. We call this pseudo-participation by and in design. The configuration of digital artifacts and/or processes can provide an illusion of participation but lack supportive processes and affordances to allow meaningful participation to happen. This exploratory paper examines the realm of pseudo-participation in the design of public digital services through two concepts: 1) pseudo-participation by design, digital interfaces, and tools that provide the illusion of participation to the people, 2) pseudo-participation in design, processes in which those affected by the design decisions are marginalized and not given any agency. We contribute to the re-imagination of participatory design in modern societies where the role of politics has become ubiquitous and is yet to be critically scrutinized by designers.


P for political: Participation Without Agency Is Not Enough

Aakash Gautam, Deborah Tatar

Participatory Design’s vision of democratic participation assumes participants’ feelings of agency in envisioning a collective future. But this assumption may be leaky when dealing with vulnerable populations. We reflect on the results of a series of activities aimed at supporting agentic-future-envisionment with a group of sex-trafficking survivors in Nepal. We observed a growing sense among the survivors that they could play a role in bringing about change in their families. They also became aware of how they could interact with available institutional resources. Reflecting on the observations, we argue that building participant agency on the small and personal interactions is necessary before demanding larger Political participation. In particular, a value of PD, especially for vulnerable populations, can lie in the process itself if it helps participants position themselves as actors in the larger world.


Scaling Participation – What Does the Concept of Managed Communities Offer for Participatory Design?

Stefan Hochwarter, Babak A. Farshchian

This paper investigates mechanisms for scaling participation in participatory design (PD). Specifically, the paper focuses on managed communities, one strategy of generification work. We first give a brief introduction on the issue of scaling in PD, followed by exploring the strategy of managed communities in PD. This exploration is underlined by an ongoing case study in the healthcare sector, and we propose solutions to observed challenges. The paper ends with a critical reflection on the possibilities managed communities offer for PD. Managed communities have much to offer beyond mere generification work for large-scale information systems, but we need to pay attention to core PD values that are in danger of being sidelined in the process.


Dancing in fissures: Embodied practices in animation to communicate a decolonial world

Ilana Paterman Brasil

This paper shares the process of creating hand-drawn animations of corporeal movements from Afro-Brazilian religious communities in the state of Rio de Janeiro, known as terreiros. This process can be seen as a case of «crossing of knowledge» between universal practices of design and pluriversal, decolonial practices that resist and strike the colonial project by inhabiting its fissures. Relating this idea to the concept of embodiment, this paper aims to discuss about the supposed separation of body and mind, and, comparably, of making and designing, linking them with questions on technological progress and on the participation of the body in creative projects.

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