The Swedish academic discipline Informatics has roots in the Scandinavian design approach Participatory Design (PD). PD’s point of departure is to design ICT and the new environment it becomes part of together with the future users driven by the ideal to bring more democracy to the workplace. PD builds further on the Action Research and industrial democracy tradition already starting in the 1960s in Scandinavia, in which the powerful Scandinavian trade unions have a central role. The aim of the unions is to prepare the workers and have influence on the introduction of new technologies that (are expected to) change the work and work environment of the workers. In the 1970s, when more computers emerge in the work place, this leads to the development of PD. Important difference with AR is that the aim of PD is to actually design new ICT and the new environment it becomes part of.
During the in PD literature much referred to project UTOPIA in the first half of the 1980s, led by project leader and PD pioneer Pelle Ehn, it is discovered that bringing the different expertise of designers/researchers and workers together in design-by-doing processes also result in more appropriate ICT.
With ICT being ubiquitous nowadays, influencing most aspects of our lives, inside and outside the workplace, and another role of trade unions in (Scandinavian) society, a question is how PD should further develop. PD pioneer Morten Kyng (also a UTOPIA designer/researcher) proposes a framework for next PD practices in a discussion paper. The first element he mentions in the framework is ideals; The designer/researcher should as a first step consider what ideals to pursue as a person and for the project, and then to consider how to discuss the goals of the project partners, for which Kyng does no further suggestions how to approach this.
This design and research thesis has as aim to design and propose some PD processes to come at the beginning of a PD/design project to shared ideals to pursue, based on a better understanding of the political and philosophical background of PD, including design as a discipline in its own right.
For a better understanding of the political and philosophical roots of PD, and design as a discipline in its own right, Pelle Ehns’s early (PD research) work and (PD) influences and supporting theories are explored, next to Kyng’s discussion paper (framework) and reactions from his debate partners on this. Find out is that politics and what ideals to pursue in PD are sensitive and (still) important subjects in PD, and in a broader sense also for design in general one could argue. In relation to this also related disciplines like Computer Ethics, Value Sensitive Design, and more recent formulated ideals for PD and its relation to ethics are explored. As a result a proposal for a redesigned framework for next PD practices as a design artefact is designed, in which the element ideals is most elaborated.
Before the understanding of design as a discipline in its own right is further explored by exploring a selection of different models and quotes from related (design) literature, on which is reflected also in relation to PD, and which are used as reminders in a design process to come to a proposal for a model that tries to reframe the relation between design, practice and research.
Finally some methods, processes and techniques used in PD, design, AR and related literature that can contribute to design proposals for design processes that enable the design of ideals using a PD approach, are explored. These are used as reminders in design-by-doing processes, in which suggestions for techniques and processes to design ideals together with participants are tried out in real live situations, reflected on and iteratively further developed. Trying to avoid framing as much as possible, (semi-) anonymity and silence seem to be important ingredients in these processes to stimulate the generation of idea(l)s as much as possible free from bias and dominance patterns. An additional design artefact developed in this context is a template for an annotated portfolio used to describe and reflect on the different processes.