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Participatory design (known before as cooperative design) is an approach to design attempting to actively involve all stakeholders (e.g. employees, partners, customers, citizens, end users) in the design process in order to help ensure the product designed meets their needs and is usable. The term is used in a variety of fields e.g. software design, urban design, architecture, landscape architecture, product design, sustainability, graphic design, planning or even medicine as a way of creating environments that are more responsive and appropriate to their inhabitants' and users' cultural, emotional, spiritual and practical needs. It is one approach to placemaking. It has been used in many settings and at various scales. Participatory design is an approach which is focused on processes and procedures of design and is not a design style. For some, this approach has a political dimension of user empowerment and democratization. For others, it is seen as a way of abrogating design responsibility and innovation by designers.
- 1 Definition
- 2 History
- 3 Fields of Participatory Design
- 4 From community consultation to community design
- 5 Processes, Procedures and Methods of Participatory Design
- 6 Notes and references
- 7 See also
- 8 External links
In participatory design, participants (putative, potential or future) are invited to cooperate with designers, researchers and developers during an innovation process. Potentially, they participate during several stages of an innovation process: they participate during the initial exploration and problem definition both to help define the problem and to focus ideas for solution, and during development, they help evaluate proposed solutions.
From the 1960s onwards there was a growing demand for greater consideration of community opinions in major decision-making. In Australia many people believed that they were not being planned ‘for’ but planned ‘at’. (Nichols 2009). A lack of consultation made the planning system seem paternalistic and without proper consideration of how changes to the built environment affected its primary users. In Britain ‘the idea that the public should participate was first raised in 1965’ (Taylor, 1998, p. 86). However the level of participation is an important issue. At a minimum public workshops and hearings have now been included in almost every planning endeavour. (Wheeler, 2004, p. 46) Yet this level of consultation can simply mean information about change without detailed participation. Involvement that ‘recognises an active part in plan making’ (Taylor, 1998, p. 86) has not always been straightforward to achieve. Participatory design has attempted to create a platform for active participation in the design process, for end users.
Participatory design was actually born in Scandinavia and named Cooperative Design. However, when the methods were presented to the US community 'cooperation' was a word that didn't resonate with the strong separation between workers and managers - they weren't supposed to discuss ways of working face-to-face. Hence, 'participatory' was instead used as the initial Participatory Design sessions weren't a direct cooperation between workers and managers, sitting in the same room discussing how to improve their work environment and tools, but there were separate sessions for workers and managers. Each group was participating in the process, not directly cooperating. (in historical review of Cooperative Design, at a Scandinavian conference).
In Scandinavia, research projects on user participation in systems development date back to the 1970s (Bødker 1996). The so-called "collective resource approach" developed strategies and techniques for workers to influence the design and use of computer applications at the workplace: The Norwegian Iron and Metal Workers Union (NJMF) project took a first move from traditional research to working with people, directly changing the role of the union clubs in the project (Ehn & Kyng, 1987). The Scandinavian projects developed an action research approach, emphasizing active co-operation between researchers and workers of the organization to help improve the latter's work situation. While researchers got their results, the people whom they worked with were equally entitled to get something out of the project. The approach built on people's own experiences, providing for them resources to be able to act in their current situation. The view of organizations as fundamentally harmonious —according to which conflicts in an organization are regarded as pseudo-conflicts or "problems" dissolved by good analysis and increased communication— was rejected in favor of a view of organizations recognizing fundamental "un-dissolvable" conflicts in organizations (Ehn & Sandberg, 1979).
In the Utopia project (Bødker et al., 1987, Ehn, 1988), the major achievements were the experience-based design methods, developed through the focus on hands-on experiences, emphasizing the need for technical and organizational alternatives (Bødker et al., 1987).
The parallel Florence project (Gro Bjerkness & Tone Bratteteig) started a long line of Scandinavian research projects in the health sector. In particular, it worked with nurses and developed approaches for nurses to get a voice in the development of work and IT in hospitals. The Florence project put gender on the agenda with its starting point in a highly gendered work environment.
In recent years, it has been a major challenge to participatory design to embrace the fact that much technology development no longer happens as design of isolated systems in well-defined communities of work (Beck, 2002). At the dawn of the 21st century, we use technology at work, at home, in school, and while on the move.
Many groups and projects throughout Scandinavia apply participatory design research methods on a regular basis, and, hence, are part of the development and appropriation of the methods, as well as of disseminating the methods to industrial practice. Among the more prominent has been the Center for User-oriented IT-Design (CID) at the Royal Institute of Technology. With his background in the Utopia project, Yngve Sundblad and a number of collaborators have developed a platform for a number of projects where industrial partners as well as partners from the labor movement and NGOs participated.
Fields of Participatory Design
Community Planning and Placemaking
Major international organizations such as Project for Public Spaces create opportunities for rigorous participation in the design and creation of place, believing that it is the essential ingredient for successful environments. Rather than simply consulting the public, PPS creates a platform for the community to participate and co-design new areas, which reflect their intimate knowledge. Providing insights, which independent design professionals such as architects or even local government planners may not have.
Using a method called Place Performance Evaluation or (Place Game), groups from the community are taken on the site of proposed development, where they use their knowledge to develop design strategies, which would benefit the community. ‘’Whether the participants are schoolchildren or professionals, the exercise produces dramatic results because it relies on the expertise of people who use the place every day, or who are the potential users of the place.’’ This successfully engages with the ultimate idea of participatory design, where various stakeholders who will be the users of the end product, are involved in the design process as a collective.
Similar projects have had success in Melbourne, Australia particularly in relation to contested sites, where design solutions are often harder to establish. The Talbot Reserve in St Kilda faced numerous problems of use, such as becoming a regular spot for sex workers and drug users to congregate. A Design In, which incorporated a variety of key users in the community about what they wanted for the future of the reserve allowed traditionally marginalised voices to participate in the design process. Participants described it as ‘a transforming experience as they saw the world through different eyes.’ (Press, 2003, p. 62). This is perhaps the key attribute of participatory design, a process which, allows multiple voices to be heard and involved in the design, resulting in outcomes which suite a wider range of users. As planning affects everyone it is believed that ‘those whose livelihoods, environments and lives are at stake should be involved in the decisions which affect them’ (Sarkissian and Perglut, 1986, p. 3)
In the Built Environment
Participatory design has many applications in development and changes to the built environment. It has particular currency to planners and architects, in relation to placemaking and community regeneration projects. It potentially offers a far more democratic approach to the design process as it involves more than one stakeholder. By incorporating a variety of views there is greater opportunity for successful outcomes. Many universities and major institutions are beginning to recognise its importance. The UN, Global studio involved students from Columbia University, University of Sydney and Sapienza University of Rome to provide design solutions for Vancouver's downtown eastside, which suffered from drug- and alcohol-related problems. The process allowed cross-discipline participation from planners, architects and industrial designers, which focused on collaboration and the sharing if ideas and stories, as opposed to ridged and singular design outcomes. (Kuiper, 2007, p. 52)
From community consultation to community design
Many local governments particularly in Melbourne, Australia require community consultation in any major changes to the built environment. Community involvement in the planning process is almost a standard requirement in most strategic changes. The City of Melbourne Swanton Street redevelopment project received over 5000 responses from the public allowing them to participate in the design process by commenting on seven different design options. While the City of Yarra recently held a ‘Stories in the Street’ consultation, to record peoples ideas about future of Smith Street. It offered participants a variety of mediums to explore their opinions such as mapping, photo surveys and storytelling. Although local councils are taking positive steps towards participatory design as opposed to traditional top down approaches to planning, many communities are moving to take design into their own hands.
Portland, Oregon city repair project is a form of participatory design, which involves the community co-designing problem areas together to make positive changes to their environment. It involves collaborative decision-making and design without traditional involvement from local government or professionals but instead runs on volunteers from the community. The process has created successful projects such as intersection repair, which saw a misused intersection develop into a successful community square.
Peer-to-peer urbanism is a form of decentralized, participatory design for urban environments and individual buildings. It borrows organizational ideas from the open-source software movement, so that knowledge about construction methods and urban design schemes is freely exchanged.
In software development
In the English-speaking world, the term has a particular currency in the world of software development, especially in circles connected to Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR), who have put on a series of Participatory Design Conferences. It overlaps with the approach Extreme Programming takes to user involvement in design, but (possibly because of its European trade union origins) the Participatory Design tradition puts more emphasis on the involvement of a broad population of users rather than a small number of user representatives.
Participatory design can be seen as a move of end-users into the world of researchers and developers, whereas empathic design can be seen as a move of researchers and developers into the world of end-users. There is a very significant differentiation between user-design and User-centered design in that there is an emancipatory theoretical foundation, and a systems theory bedrock (Ivanov, 1972, 1995), on which user-design is founded. Indeed, user-centered design is a useful and important construct, but one that suggests that users are taken as centers in the design process, consulting with users heavily, but not allowing users to make the decisions, nor empowering users with the tools that the experts use. For example, Wikipedia content is user-designed. Users are given the necessary tools to make their own entries. Wikipedia's underlying wiki software is based on user-centered design: while users are allowed to propose changes or have input on the design, a smaller and more specialized group decide about features and system design.
Participatory work in software development has historically tended toward two distinct trajectories, one in Scandinavia and northern Europe, and the other in North America. The Scandinavian and northern European tradition has remained closer to its roots in the labor movement (e.g., Beck, 2002; Bjerknes, Ehn, and Kyng, 1987). The North American and Pacific rim tradition has tended to be both broader (e.g., including managers and executives as "stakeholders" in design) and more circumscribed (e.g., design of individual features as contrasted with the Scandinavian approach to the design of entire systems and design of the work that the system is supposed to support) (e.g., Beyer and Holtzblatt, 1998; Noro and Imada, 1991). However, some more recent work has tended to combine the two approaches (Bødker et al., 2004; Muller, 2007).
Processes, Procedures and Methods of Participatory Design
Distributed participatory design
Distributed Participatory design (DPD) is a design approach and philosophy that supports the direct participation of users and other stakeholders in system analysis and design work. Nowadays design teams most often are distributed, which stress a need for support and knowledge gathered from design of distributed systems. Distributed Participatory design aims to facilitate understanding between different stakeholders in distributed design teams by giving each the opportunity to engage in hands-on activities.
Notes and references
- Web Page on Participatory Design on the site of CPSR. Retrieved 13 April 2006.
- Projects for Public Spaces http://www.pps.org/info/services/our_approach/building_the_vision Building The Vision May 15, 2009
- The City of Melbourne http://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/info.cfm?top=192&pa=1323&pg=4460 Have Your Say May 14, 2009
- Andrea Cook http://www.yarracity.vic.gov.au/Consultation/pdf/Stories%20in%20the%20Street%20Publicity%20Files.pdf Stories in the Street" May 14, 2009
- City Repair http://cityrepair.org/about/ "What is City repair" May 13, 2009
- Clarence Eckerson Jr (2007-05-31). "Intersection repair". Streetfilms.
- "P2P Urbanism", collection of articles
- Asaro, Peter M. (2000). "Transforming society by transforming technology: the science and politics of participatory design." Accounting Management and Information Technology 10: 257–290.
- Banathy, B.H. (1992). Comprehensive systems design in education: building a design culture in education. Educational Technology, 22(3) 33-35.
- Beck, E. (2002).P for Political - Participation is Not Enough. SJIS, Volume 14 - 2002
- Belotti, V. and Bly, S., 1996. Walking away from desktop computer: distributed collaboration and mobility in a product design team. In Proceedings of CSCW “96, Cambridge, Mass., November 16–20, ACM press: 209-218.
- Beyer, H., and Holtzblatt, K. (1998). Contextual design: Defining customer-centered systems. San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann.
- Button, G. and Sharrock, W. 1996. Project work: the organisation of collaborative design and development in software engineering. CSCW Journal, 5 (4), p. 369-386.
- Bødker, S. and Iversen, O. S. (2002): Staging a professional participatory design practice: moving PD beyond the initial fascination of user involvement. In Proceedings of the Second Nordic Conference on Human-Computer interaction (Aarhus, Denmark, October 19–23, 2002). NordiCHI '02, vol. 31. ACM Press, New York, NY, 11-18
- Bødker, K., Kensing, F., and Simonsen, J. (2004). Participatory IT design: Designing for business and workplace realities. Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
- Bødker, S. (1996). Creating conditions for participation: Conflicts and resources in systems design, Human Computer Interaction 11(3), 215-236
- Bødker, S., Christiansen, E., Ehn, P., Markussen, R., Mogensen, P., & Trigg, R. (1993). The AT Project: Practical research in cooperative design, DAIMI No. PB-454. Department of Computer Science, Aarhus University.
- Bødker, S., Ehn, P., Kammersgaard, J., Kyng, M., & Sundblad, Y. (1987). A Utopian experience: In G. Bjerknes, P. Ehn, & M. Kyng. (Eds.), Computers and democracy: A Scandinavian challenge (pp. 251–278). Aldershot, UK: Avebury.
- Carr, A.A. (1997). User-design in the creation of human learning systems. Educational Technology Research and Development, 45 (3), 5-22.
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- Divitini, M. & Farshchian, B.A. 1999. Using Email and WWW in a Distributed Participatory Design Project. In SIGGROUP Bulletin 20(1), pp. 10–15.
- Ehn, P. & Kyng, M. (1987). The Collective Resource Approach to Systems Design. In Bjerknes, G., Ehn, P., & Kyng, M. (Eds.), Computers and Democracy - A Scandinavian Challenge. (pp. 17–58). Aldershot, UK: Avebury
- Ehn, P. & Kyng, M., 1991. Cardboard Computers: Mocking-it-up or Hands-on the Future. In, Greenbaum, J. & Kyng, M. (Eds.) Design at Work, pp. 169 – 196. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Laurence Erlbaum Associates.
- Ehn, P. (1988). Work-oriented design of computer artifacts. Falköping: Arbetslivscentrum/Almqvist & Wiksell International, Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
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- Grudin, J. (1993). Obstacles to Participatory Design in Large Product Development Organizations: In Namioka, A. & Schuler, D. (Eds.), Participatory design. Principles and practices (pp. 99–122). Hillsdale NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
- Grønbæk, K., Kyng, M. & P. Mogensen (1993). CSCW challenges: Cooperative Design in Engineering Projects, Communications of the ACM, 36, 6, pp. 67–77
- Ivanov, K. (1972). Quality-control of information: On the concept of accuracy of information in data banks and in management information systems. The University of Stockholm and The Royal Institute of Technology. Doctoral dissertation.
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- Kensing, F. & Blomberg, J. 1998. Participatory Design: Issues and Concerns In Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Vol. 7, pp. 167–185.
- Kensing, F. 2003. Methods and Practices in Participatory Design. ITU Press, Copenhagen, Denmark.
- Kuiper, Gabrielle, June 2007, Participatory planning and design in the downtown eastside: reflections on Global Studio Vancouver, Australian Planner, v.44, no.2, pp. 52–53
- Kyng, M. (1989). Designing for a dollar a day. Office, Technology and People, 4(2): 157-170.
- Muller, M.J. (2007). Participatory design: The third space in HCI (revised). In J. Jacko and A. Sears (eds.), Handbook of HCI 2nd Edition. Mahway NJ USA: Erlbaum.
- Naghsh, A. M., Ozcan M. B. 2004. Gabbeh - A Tool For Computer Supported Collaboration in Electronic Paper-Prototyping. In *Dearden A & Watts L. (Eds). Proceedings of HCI “04: Design for Life volume 2. British HCI Group pp77 – 80
- Näslund, T., 1997. Computers in Context –But in Which Context? In Kyng, M. & Mathiassen, L. (Eds). Computers and Design in Context. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA. pp. 171 – 200.
- Nichols, Dave, (2009) Planning Thought and History Lecture, The University of Melbourne
- Noro, K., & Imada, A. S. (Eds.). (1991) Participatory ergonomics. London: Taylor and Francis.
- Perry, M. & Sanderson, D. 1998. Coordinating Joint Design Work: The Role of Communication and Artefacts. Design Studies, Vol. 19, pp. 273–28
- Press, Mandy, 2003. “Communities for Everyone: redesigning contested public places in Victoria”, Chapter 9 of end Weeks et al. (eds), Community Practices in Australia (French Forests NSW: Pearson Sprint Print), pp. 59–65
- Reigeluth, C. M. (1993). Principles of educational systems design. International Journal of Educational Research, 19 (2), 117-131.
- Sarkissian,W, Perglut, D. 1986, Community Participation in Practice, The Community Participation handbook, Second edition, Murdoch University
- Santa Rosa, J.G. & Moraes, A. Design Participativo: técnicas para inclusão de usuários no processo de ergodesign de interfaces. Rio de Janeiro: RioBooks, 2012.
- Schuler, D. & Namioka, A. (1993). Participatory design: Principles and practices. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
- Trainer, Ted 1996, Towards a sustainable economy: The need for fundamental change Envirobook/ Jon Carpenter, Sydney/Oxford, pp. 135–167
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- Web Page on Participatory Design on the site of CPSR. Links to various papers and information about Participatory Design conferences.
- Institute for Participatory Design Participatory Design theory and practice, interesting project examples from Germany.
- Participle Creating new types of public services (London).
- Human Centered Design Toolkit IDEOs free toolkit
- We build the parts you build the product Fast Company Magazine
- The World Seed Project
- Technical report on participatory theory and methods emphasizing hybridity (methods and work practices that share attributes of multiple domains or disciplines).