PD today – Reflections
How about today? Living in developed countries, where Information Technology is a pervasive part of our daily lives. Rather than being merely tools, the technologies now being designed are arguably transforming and augmenting the world around us, where computer generated information, objects, and infrastructures coexist in the same space as the real world 9.
Participatory design in informatics
Informatics is the design of information systems, applications, and infrastructures, including the socio-technical systems within which these technologies are embedded. Between 1970 and 2000, computer and information science and engineering (CISE) were profoundly reconstructed. In 1970, the ‘software crisis’ a severe need for software applications that outstripped capacity to produce them e was still the driving challenge. It was conceived of technologically. Huge efforts were directed at systematising software design and engineering processes, and developing computational tools to automatically configure systems and applications from formal specifications 13.
Most of this proved to be ephemeral; higher-level programming languages, application-specific programming languages, and software libraries soon muted the software crisis. A relatively small cadre of computer scientists and engineers recognised that the more significant issue was that of presenting more and better information to people, and conceiving of new ways for people to manipulate vast quantities of information. Indeed, as we look back at the ‘software crisis’ from many years onward, it seems that the looming crisis of the 1970s was the usability crisis broadly understood as the challenge of learning how to produce software that individuals and their organisations could readily adopt and apply, and through which they could become more efficient with respect to their own objectives and activities. This crisis was not even recognised by the mainstream of CISE in North America until well into the 1980s 6.
The 1980s in North America was the decade of human-centred computing. At the outset of the decade, it was a novel idea that human characteristics and the various experiences of using software were among the most important design requirements for software. However, even in 1990s the concepts, skills, and practices to ensure that software meaningfully addressed human characteristics and produced a rich and satisfying user experience were rare in the computer industry.
Direct user participation was mostly absent from North American conceptions of human-centred design in the 1980s. This is surprising in that participatory design was being energetically and quite visibly pursued in Scandinavian CISE as early as the 1960s 2. During the 1970s and 1980s, as the information processing conception of human centred computing emerged, and eventually became the dominant view in North America, participatory design became highly developed throughout northern Europe; it was constructed theoretically by Activity Theory. These two ‘paradigms’ North American human-centred computing and European Activity Theory/Participatory Design came into contact frequently during the latter 1980s as an international research community in Human Computer Interaction formed first around the IFIP 13.2 Working Group, and eventually around the ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Human Interaction (SIGCHI).
A turning point was the publication of Bødker’s (1991) monograph ‘Through the Interface’; from that point forward, participatory design entered the North American discourse on human computer interaction in a torrent. During the 1990s, participatory design methods became standard practices throughout the world. There are still regional flavourings. For example, in Europe relatively greater weight is given to the moral premise, and accordingly, participatory design is well integrated into the broader concept of labour relations and negotiations. Thus, a frontier of participatory design in Europe is including managers in participatory design processes 3.
Figure 1. Participatory Design Involves various stakeholders. Image: George, J. 2015 on Web Design Fanatic
Involving participants in a PD Project
How do we involve users or participants when we talk about Interaction technology, Social media, Internet of Things, Smart cities, Big data, Open data or Open government?
The answer is by sharing responsibilities and trust building as a matter of ‘practical politics’ in a PD project. And by having an informed as in project outcomes, sensitive issues may arise and Handling conflicts between perspectives and loyalties may need to be addressed.
Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI)
A response to the challenge of designing innovations in a socially desirable and acceptable way. Responsible Research and Innovation aims to ensure that the processes and outcomes of research are aligned with societal values.
What is RRI
Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) is a methodology that expects and evaluates possible consequences and societal prospects about research and innovation, with the goal to substitute the design of comprehensive and sustainable research and innovation.
RRI shows that key individuals from the public such as researchers, residents, policy makers, business, third sector associations work jointly during the whole research and innovation process to better align both the process and its results with the values, requirements and expectations of society.
In practice, RRI gets implemented as a bundle that includes multi-player and public commitment in research and innovation, allowing easier access to scientific results, the gender and ethics in the research and innovation content and process, as well as formal and informal science education. There is a growing pressure on RRI to be better aligned with societal interests. Science no longer enjoys a special status; the question of responsibility has gradually been an issue also for policy makers, and the society at large.