Participatory Design: The Third Space in HCI

I really like the idea of participatory design and was delighted to learn that it came out of a political movement. It’s really neat to see how a strategy used for smoothing out power imbalances and creating a new space for different groups to learn about each other can also be used in the field of HCI. I was especially interested in the section about low fidelity prototyping being used to create the third space of participatory design. Muller says that low fidelity prototypes “bring people into new relationships with technologies” by asking end-users to “think about technologies or applications that they have not previously experienced” and to “use the low-tech materials to reshape the technologies.” (p.21) I have had many opportunities this semester to do paper prototyping, and it becomes a much more powerful tool when you view it through the lens of participatory design. Paper prototyping can improve group communication and understanding by “grounding discussions in concrete artifacts,” can lead to better incorporation of new/ emergent ideas “through the ability of participants to express their ideas directly” with the medium of the paper prototype, and can lead to “a sense of shared ownership of the resulting design” by being able to edit or co-create the prototype.

The section at the end of the article about unsolved challenges in participatory design was also incredibly useful, because it brought up many challenges about using PD successfully that I hadn’t considered before. The point about participatory design not being universally accessible because it often involves visual and hands-on interaction is an important issue for HCI researchers.


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