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Towards reciprocity in Participatory Design processes

Katrien Dreessen, Niels Hendriks, Selina Schepers, Andrea Wilkinson

Albeit achieving reciprocity is considered essential in much Participatory Design (PD) research, there remains a gap in the current literature on how PD practitioners working in community settings can obtain this. Through a literature review, we identified four characteristics of reciprocity that were used to analyse six different projects that all took place in the same neighbourhood and with the same group of designers. Starting from projects that failed in achieving reciprocal relationships, we distilled four defining and interconnected elements or handles for enabling reciprocity in PD processes. To attain reciprocity in a PD project, the project should be embedded in the community setting. This also implies that the involved designers need to have the willingness to be (or become) engaged, invest time and self-disclose personal information to build relationships within the community in order to establish a symbiotic agreement.


From ‘Thing-ing’ to ‘Musyawarah-ing’: De-colonising the Participatory Design Vocabulary

Tanja Rosenqvist

With Participatory Design (PD) increasingly applied across a range of cultural contexts, there is a growing need to better understand the relationship between PD and the many distinct traditional approaches to decision-making PD encounters and the democratic ideals underpinning them. Currently, the PD discourse is strongly tied to Scandinavian democratic history and ideals. Most prominently, contemporary PD literature has drawn links between design and the etymology of the word ‘Thing’ – a democratic gathering in ancient Northern European societies. While this concept provides a useful lens for planning and analysing PD projects conducted in Scandinavia, other conceptualizations of design might be more useful and appropriate for PD taking place elsewhere. By conducting an initial exploration of traditional approaches to democratic decision-making practiced in parts of the Asia-Pacific, this paper offers a small step towards appreciating the diversity of democratic ideals PD may meet, how PD may adapt to these, and what can be learned from them. The paper, specifically, explores the traditions of musyawarah-mufakat practiced in Indonesia, and to a more limited extend talanoa, berkaul and hui practiced in Fiji, Sumatra, and Aotearoa respectively.


Reflexive account-giving through ‘practice notations’: plural dimensions and dynamics of infrastructuring

Shana Agid, Yoko Akama

This paper takes contemporary infrastructuring discourses further to explore ways to notice, articulate, and learn from dynamic shifts that characterize contingent contexts of participatory designing. We explore the knowledge(s) that can emerge from generating understandings of movements in relation to changing conditions through the use of ‘practice notation’ in a long-term collaboration with an organization working to end the prison industrial complex in the US. Informed by dance notation, the project experimented through practices of inquiry that enabled understandings across multiple scales, from the local to the systemic, with a focus on how collectivity was imagined, built, challenged, and sustained. We consider how practice notations can complement dynamic accounts of infrastructuring by layering participants’ movement, ideas, and contexts to create new understandings of practice. In so doing, we commit to the ethics of providing richer and more grounded articulations of participatory practices-in-motion.


Political-pedagogical contributions to participatory design from Paulo Freire

Bibiana Serpa, Imaíra Portela, Mariana Costard, Sâmia Batista

The article seeks to present correspondences between the Pedagogy of the Oppressed and  Participatory Design, in order to reflect on emancipatory practices in design research contexts. We will approach how Paulo Freire’s pedagogical propositions can add layers of social and political reflection to discussions about democratic design, articulating the notion of Design Things. After that, we will present design experiments that aim to investigate issues of social, ethnic and gender inequality, with shared theoretical and practical approaches in the Design Anthropology Laboratory of the Superior School of Industrial Design, based in Rio de Janeiro State University.

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