Last modified 14 years ago Last modified on 10/28/05 14:33:28

What Is Participatory Design?


Because PD practitioners are so diverse in their perspectives, backgrounds, and areas of concern, there can be no single definition of PD. However, we can formulate a few tenets shared by most PD practitioners and advocates.

  • Respect the users of technology, regardless of their status in the workplace, technical know-how, or access to their organization's purse strings. View every participant in a PD project as an expert in what they do, as a stakeholder whose voice needs to be heard.
  • Recognize that workers are a prime source of innovation, that design ideas arise in collaboration with participants from diverse backgrounds, and that technology is but one option in addressing emergent problems.
  • View a "system" as more than a collection of software encased in hardware boxes. In PD, we see systems as networks of people, practices, and technology embedded in particular organizational contexts.
  • Understand the organization and the relevant work on its own terms, in its own settings. This is why PD practitioners prefer to spend time with users in their workplaces rather than "test" them in laboratories.
  • Address problems that exist and arise in the workplace, articulated by or in collaboration with the affected parties, rather than attributed from the outside.
  • Find concrete ways to improve the working lives of co-participants by, for example, reducing the tedium associated with work tasks; co-designing new opportunities for exercising creativity; increasing worker control over work content, measurement and reporting; and helping workers communicate and organize across hierarchical lines within the organization and with peers elsewhere.
  • Be conscious of one's own role in PD processes; try to be a "reflective practitioner."

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