Design Things and Design Thinking: Contemporary Participatory Design Challenges Erling Bjögvinsson, Pelle Ehn, Per-Anders Hillgren - PDF

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Design Things and Design Thinking: Contemporary Participatory Design Challenges Erling Bjögvinsson, Pelle Ehn, Per-Anders Hillgren 1 Tim Brown, Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations

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Design Things and Design Thinking: Contemporary Participatory Design Challenges Erling Bjögvinsson, Pelle Ehn, Per-Anders Hillgren 1 Tim Brown, Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation (New York: HarperCollins Press, 2009). 2 See, e.g., Erling Björgvinsson, Socio- Material Mediations: Learning, Knowing, and Self-Produced Media Within Healthcare, PhD Dissertation Series (Karlskrona: Blekinge Institute of Technology, 2007); Pelle Ehn, Work- Oriented Design of Computer Artifacts: Arbetslivscentrum (Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1988); and Per-Anders Hillgren, Ready-Made-Media- Actions: Lokal Produktion och Användning av Audiovisuella Medier inom Hälso- och Sjukvården (Ready-Made-Media-Actions: Local Production and Use of Audiovisual Media within Healthcare) (Karlskrona: Blekinge Institute of Technology, 2006). Introduction Design thinking has become a central issue in contemporary design discourse and rhetoric, and for good reason. With the design thinking practice of world leading design and innovation firm IDEO, and with the application of these principles to successful design education at prestigious d.school, the Institute of Design at Stanford University, and not least with the publication of Change by Design, in which IDEO chief executive Tim Brown elaborates on the firm s ideas about design thinking, 1 the design community is challenged to think beyond both the omnipotent designer and the obsession with products, objects, and things. Instead, what is suggested is: (1) that designers should be more involved in the big picture of socially innovative design, beyond the economic bottom line; (2) that design is a collaborative effort where the design process is spread among diverse participating stakeholders and competences; and (3) that ideas have to be envisioned, prototyped, and explored in a hands-on way, tried out early in the design process in ways characterized by human-centeredness, empathy, and optimism. To us this perspective sounds like good old Participatory Design, although we have to admit it has a better articulated and more appealing rhetoric. As active researchers in the field of Participatory Design for many decades, we fully embrace this design thinking orientation. However, we also hold that, given design thinking s many similarities to Participatory Design today, some of the latter s challenges also might be relevant to contemporary design thinking. In this paper we put forth both some practicalpolitical and some theoretical-conceptual challenges and dilemmas in engaging in design for change. We do so using the background of our own idiosyncratic encounters with the field and our view on how Participatory Design as a design practice and theoretical field has emerged and evolved since the early 1970s Massachusetts Institute of Technology 101 In this paper, we argue that a fundamental challenge for designers and the design community is to move from designing things (objects) to designing Things (socio-material assemblies). We also argue that this movement involves not only the challenges of engaging stakeholders as designers in the design process, as in traditional Participatory Design (i.e., envisioning use before actual use, for example, through prototyping), but also the challenges of designing beyond the specific project and toward future stakeholders as designers (i.e., supporting ways to design after design in a specific project). We see this movement as one from projecting to one of infrastructuring design activities. As further reflections on these challenges, we discuss our ongoing infrastructuring engagement in Malmö Living Labs as one in which we design Things for social innovation. We conclude by returning to design thinking and exploring the further challenges to infrastructuring and to open design Things. 3 Bruno Latour, Pandora s Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999). 4 This frame or structure is also used for the book Design Things by Thomas Binder, Pelle Ehn, Giorgio de Michelis, Per Linde, Giulio Jacucci, and Ina Wagner (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011), in which we explore socio-material foundations for contemporary design from a pragmatic perspective. Ideas in this paper are dealt with in much more detail in the book. 102 Designing: From things to Things As background, we suggest the need to revisit, and partly reverse, the etymological history of things, as well as the political history and the value base of Participatory Design. The etymology of the English word thing reveals a journey from the meaning of a social and political assembly, taking place at a certain time and at a certain place, to a meaning of an object, an entity of matter. Originally, Things go back to the governing assemblies in ancient Nordic and Germanic societies. These pre-christian Things were assemblies, rituals, and places where disputes were resolved and political decisions made. The prerequisite for understanding this journey from things as material object and back to Things as sociomaterial assemblies is that if we live in total agreement, we do not need to gather to resolve disputes because none exist. Instead, the need for a common place where conflicts can be negotiated is motivated by a diversity of perspectives, concerns, and interests. Our starting point in this paper is participation in Things these kinds of socio-material assemblies that Bruno Latour so strikingly has characterized as collectives of humans and nonhumans. 3 We argue that this shift of meaning in the word thing is of interest when reflecting on how we as designers work, live, and act in a public space of design a space that permits a heterogeneity of perspectives among actors who engage in attempts to align their conflicting objects of design. How can we gather and collaborate in and around design Things Things that are modifying the space of interactions and performance and that may be explored as socio-material frames for controversies, opening up new ways of thinking and behaving, being ready for unexpected use. 4 5 Ehn, Work-Oriented Design of Computer Artifacts. 6 Ibid. 7 Bruno Latour, From Realpolitik to Dingpolitik or How to Make Things Public in Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel, eds., Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy in Catalogue of the Exhibition at ZKM Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, 20/03-30/ (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2005), Participatory Design, seen as design of Things, has its roots in the movements toward democratization of work places in the Scandinavian countries. In the 1970s participation and joint decision-making became important factors in relation to workplaces and the introduction of new technology. Early Participatory Design projects addressed new production tools, changes in production planning, management control, work organization, and division of labor from users shop floor perspective. 5 Participatory Design started from the simple standpoint that those affected by a design should have a say in the design process. This perspective reflects the then-controversial political conviction that controversy rather than consensus should be expected around an emerging object of design. In this situation, Participatory Design sided with resource-weak stakeholders (typically local trade unions) and developed project strategies for their effective and legitimate participation in design. A less controversial complementary motive for Participatory Design was the potential to ensure that existing skills could be made a resource in the design process. Hence, one might say that two types of values strategically guided Participatory Design. One is the social and rational idea of democracy as a value that leads to considerations of conditions that enable proper and legitimate user participation what we refer to here as staging and infrastructuring design Things. The other value might be described as the idea affirming the importance of making participants tacit knowledge come into play in the design process not just their formal and explicit competencies, but those practical and diverse skills that are fundamental to the making of things as objects or artifacts. 6 Hence, Participatory Design, as it emerged in the 1970s, might theoretically and practically be seen as a modern example of Things (or rather thinging, as Heidegger would call it). Latour has called for a thing philosophy or object-oriented politics. 7 His explicit references to object-oriented programming are interesting, not least because a key actor in the early formation of Participatory Design in Scandinavia, Kristen Nygaard, also was one of the inventors of object-oriented programming. For our purposes, however, we focus on participation in design Things and on strategies for infrastructuring them. Included in this focus is the design of objects as matters of concerns. So design Things are in focus when inquiring into the agency not only of designers and users, but also of non-human actants, such as objects, artifacts, and design devices. How do they get things done their way? How are design and use related? How do design projects and design processes align human and non-human resources to move the object of design forward? How might designers participate in these Things and position themselves in the collectives of humans and non-humans? 103 As the paper evolves, two thinging approaches emerge. In the first, Participatory Design is characterized as an approach to involve users in the design and, as suggested by Redström, to encounter in the design process use-before-use. 8 In such a traditional approach, Participatory Design is seen as a way to meet the challenges of anticipating or envisioning use before actual use, as it takes place in people s lifeworlds. A complementary position suggests deferring some design and participation until after the design project, opening up the possibility of use as design, or design-after-design. 9 This approach means design as infrastructuring, addressing the challenge of design as ongoing and as anticipation or envisioning of potential design that takes place in use after design in a specific project. 8 Johan Redström, Re:definitions of Use, Design Studies 29, no. 4 (2008): Ibid. 10 Jens Pedersen, Protocols of Research and Design (PhD thesis, Copenhagen IT University, 2007). 104 Thinging: From Projecting to Infrastructuring The project is the socio-material Thing that is the major form of alignment of design activities. A project is the common form for aligning resources (people and technology) in all larger design endeavors. Projects are Things that have objectives, time lines, deliverables, and more. In practice, resources that must be aligned in a design project might include project briefs, prototypes, sketches, ethnographies and other field material, buildings, devices, project reports, users, engineers, architects, designers, researchers, and other stakeholders. Projects often are designed to go through a number of consecutive stages of gradual refinement. They typically have names like analysis, design, construction and implementation. However, the shortcomings of such an approach are well-known and many: the top-down perspective hindering adaptation to changing conditions, the hierarchical structure adverting legitimate participation, the rigidity of specifications. Hence, the call for user involvement and Participatory Design approaches. Rather than thinking of a project as a design Thing consisting of the four phases of analysis, design, construction, and implementation, a Thing approach would see this as a collective of humans and non-humans and might rather look to the performative staging of it. Inspired by Pedersen, we could then consider these questions: 10 How do we construct the initial object of design for a project? How do we align the participants around a shared, though problematic or even controversial, object of concern? How do we set the stage for a design Thing? As work proceeds, how can the involved practices be made reportable (e.g., fieldwork, ethnographies, direct participation)? How can the object of design be made manipulatable, enrolling the participating non-human actors represented in forms that can be experienced (e.g., sketches, models, prototypes, and games)? How are the objects of design and matters of concern made into public Things and opened to controversies among participants, both in the project and outside it (e.g., negotiations, workshops, exhibitions, public debate)? However, as Klaus Krippendorff has pointed out, projects are only part, or a specific form, of alignments in the life cycle of a device, and every object of design eventually has to become part of already existing ecologies of devices, in people s already ongoing lifeworlds. 11 Hence, both the beginning and end of a designed device is open and hardly ever constrained to the limits of the project. This openness is principally interesting because it emphasizes the importance of understanding how design in a project is related to user/stakeholder appropriation, be it as adoption or redesign, and how users make it part of their lifeworld and evolving ecologies of devices. Hence, strategies and tactics of design for use must also be open for appropriation in use, after a specific project is finished, and consider this appropriation as a potential, specific kind of design. 11 See Klaus Krippendorf, The Semantic Turn: A New Foundation for Design (Boca Raton, FL: Taylor & Francis Group, 2006). 12 Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1953). 13 See Ehn, Work-Oriented Design of Computer Artifacts; see also Susan L. Star, The Structure of Ill-Structured Solutions: Boundary Objects and Heterogeneous Distributed Problem Solving, in Distributed Artificial Intelligence 2, Les Gasser and Michael Huhns, eds. (San Francisco: Morgan Kaufman, 1989), Robert Junk and Norbert R. Müllert, Zukunftswerkstätten: Wege zur Wiederbelebung der Demokratie (Future workshops: How to Create Desirable Futures) (Hamburg: Hoffmann und Campe, 1981). Participatory Design Things and Use Before Use Early attempts to conceptualize Participatory Design were made by referring to Wittgenstein and the language-game philosophy. 12 Design was seen as meaningful participation in intertwined language-games of design and use (professional designers and professional users); whereas, performative design artifacts, such as mock-ups, prototypes, and design games, could act as boundary objects binding the different language-games together. 13 With this conceptualization followed the specific design challenge of setting the stage for another specific design languagegame one that has a family resemblance with (professional) language-games of different stakeholders, especially users (lay-designers) and (professional) designers. Thus, in the language of this paper, this staging meant literally assembling socio-material design Things, with potentially controversial design objects and matters of concern. The focus thus shifted to socio-material Things as assemblies rather than being on things as objects. This shift led to recommendations and practices for a design process based on the (work) practices of legitimate but resource-weak stakeholders (i.e., actual or potential end-users ). Work ethnographies and other ways to focus on the users understanding became central. So did engaging in participative design activities, such as participative future workshops. 14 But the most significant shift was the replacement of systems descriptions with engaging hands-on design devices, like mock-ups and prototypes and design games that helped maintain a family resemblance with the users everyday practice and that supported creative, skillful participation and performance in the design process. A decisive 105 15 See Pelle Ehn and Morten Kyng, Cardboard Computers, in Design at Work: Cooperative Design of Computer Systems, Joan Greenbaum and Morten Kyng, eds. (Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1991),169-96, and Pelle Ehn and Dan Sjögren, From System Description to Script for Action in Design at Work: Cooperative Design of Computer Systems, in Design at Work: Cooperative Design of Computer Systems, Ehn, Work-Oriented Design of Computer Artifacts. 17 Pelle Ehn and Åke Sandberg, Företagstyrning och Löntagarmakt (Management Control and Labor Power) (Falköping: Prisma, 1978). 18 Star, The Structure of Ill-Structured Solutions, shift in design approach occurred when user participation as design-by-doing and design-by-playing became ways to envision use-before-use. 15 The shift came on the heels of a breakdown in communication between designers and users (lay designers) in using more traditional design methods. These methods did not make sense to all participants. There are striking similarities here between how we started to use design-by-doing and design-by-playing design artifacts in participatory projects in the early 1980s (e.g., supporting graphic workers and their unions in shaping new technology and work organization in newspaper production) and the focus on prototyping and role-playing as creative tools in contemporary design thinking. 16 Note that this view on design Things as intertwined language-games, with its focus on the relation between designers and users, was developed in the societal context for, and discourse around, democratization of the workplace in Scandinavia in the 1970s. In practice, design Things did not stand alone. They were linked to other Things especially to a formal negotiation model for design projects focusing on skills and work organization, intended to strengthen the voice of workers and their local trade unions in negotiations with management and in controversies around the design and introduction of new technologies at the workplace. 17 What, then, is the role of non-human participants, such as design devices in the form of prototypes, mock-ups, design games, models, and sketches in design Things? In project work, a strong focus is placed on representations of the object of design. Traditionally, these representations are thought of as gradually more refined descriptions of the designed object-to-be. The suggestion here instead is to focus on these devices as material presenters of the evolving object of design supporting communication or participation in the design process. This evolving object of design is potentially binding different stakeholders together, and it clearly also has a performative dimension. The presenters of the object of design, of course, have to be elected and enrolled by the other participants, but once engaged, they are active participants in a design Thing as a collective of humans and non-humans. We might also view these presenters as boundary objects in participatory design Things. 18 They stabilize the design Thing and allow some transference and commonality across the boundaries of language-games, but they also acknowledge that different stakeholders might at the same time hold very different views. Hence, in any design process, when establishing heterogeneous design Things with multiple stakeholders, considering how such boundary objects can be identified and enrolled would be important, as would being aware of the diverse meanings that these presenters might carry in relation to the different stakeholders. With this view of Participatory Design as participative, entangled design Things that align language-games with heterogeneous matters of concern, and of design objects or devices both as presenters for the evolving object of design and as boundary objects for binding these heterogeneous language-games together, we now look to the challenges of this participative approach. 19 Gerhard Fischer and Eric Scharff, Meta- Design Design for Designers, in Proceedings of the 3rd Conference on Designing Interactive Systems (DIS 2000),
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