Getting Participatory Design Done: From Methods and Choices to Translation Work across Constituent Domains

Authors: Andrea Botero, Sampsa Hyysalo, Cindy Kohtala, Jack Whalen


Collaborative arrangements between users and designers today are enacted in a broadening array of circumstances. These include extended, even years-long projects within corporations, the public and third sectors, as well as open-ended, peer-to-peer open design initiatives. Building on a literature review and analysis of four concrete participatory design projects, in this paper we argue that besides skills in selecting and implementing co-design methods, there is a larger repertoire of issues that need attention, if one takes the promises and limits of participatory design seriously. We elaborate on how these issues have purchase in the interplay of four interrelated domains: the strategic considerations that drive all those implicated, the mundane acts involved in co-design work, the choice of methods that is conditioned by strategic and mundane issues, and the producing of design outcomes permeated in turn by all the above. These domains co-constitute each other in such a way that one domain cannot easily be considered apart from the others. Participatory design understood from this perspective is not about facilitation skills, but rather skills to translate among strategic, mundane, method and design domains, and being aware of how they qualify and permeate each other in order to achieve results.

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