The Politics of Participation in Design

In my earlier post about participatory design I mentioned a brief note about the politics of participation. That clear support from management is a must but actually having the boss in the room during a design session can also restrict the conversation. Particularly during critique.

To follow up on the political angle, users also need a guarantee that their design efforts will be taken seriously. Bodker, Gronbaek, and Kyng discuss this requirement in their essay on Cooperative Design in Participatory Design Principles and lay out three guidelines for such exercises:

  • They make a difference for the participants
  • Implementation of the results is likely
  • They are fun to participate in

The first two points concern the political nature of participation in design but the last speaks to the nature of the design process itself. As the authors put it: “no matter how much influence participation may give, it should transcend the boredom of traditional design meetings to really support design as meaningful and involved action.”

What other rules of thumb have you found to be useful for framing participatory design exercises?

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