Participatory Design: Principles and Practices

Participatory Design: Principles and Practices

Participatory Design: Principles and Practices

Participatory Design: Principles and Practices

Synopsis

The voices in this collection are primarily those of researchers and developers concerned with bringing knowledge of technological possibilities to bear on informed and effective system design. Their efforts are distinguished from many previous writings on system development by their central and abiding reliance on direct and continuous interaction with those who are the ultimate arbiters of system adequacy; namely, those who will use the technology in their everyday lives and work. A key issue throughout is the question of who does what to whom: whose interests are at stake, who initiates action and for what reason, who defines the problem and who decides that there is one. The papers presented follow in the footsteps of a small but growing international community of scholars and practitioners of participatory systems design. Many of the original European perspectives are represented here as well as some new and distinctively American approaches. The collection is characterized by a rich anddiverse set of perspectives and experiences that, despite their differences, share a distinctive spirit and direction -- a more humane, creative, and effective relationship between those involved in technology's design and use, and between technology and the human activities that motivate the technology.

Excerpt

Lucy Suchman Xerox Palo Alto Research Center

Computer systems development is invariably accompanied by the problem of how to define requirements for the system's functionality. From the developer's point-of-view, the problem has been viewed as one of somehow eliciting from prospective users of a technology what it is that they need the technology to do for them. At the same time this basic problem is often significantly displaced from any specific site of technology-in-use. Imagined users, model users, or surrogate users like the paid subjects of focus groups and operability tests stand in for those who will actually work with the technology. And stereotypic scenarios or extrapolations from prevailing models of generic information processing tasks take the place of an investigation of the specific activities in which a technology will be involved. Even in those cases where development involves extensive inquiry into relevant work activities, it is often persons other than those who actually do the work who speak on their behalf.

Against such a background, this volume takes up the problem of how to establish meaningful and productive interactions among those directly charged with processes of technology design and use. It does so primarily from a designer's point-of-view. That is to say, with the exception of contributions by Ellen Bravo and Frank Emspak, the voices you find here are not those of workers or system users but rather of researchers and developers concerned with bringing their knowledge of technological possibilities to bear on the work of system design. At the same time, what distinguishes this collection from many previous writings on system development is its central and abiding concern for direct and continuous interaction with those who are the ultimate arbiters of system adequacy; namely, those who will use the technology in their everyday lives and work. A key concern throughout is the question of who does what to whom:

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