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Workshop: Jaeger et al

We Invite you to our Workshop

Seeing Shadows of the Sun: Critical Perspectives and Participatory Design Approaches

A Workshop to be held at the Participatory Design Conference 2000, CUNY

Wednesday, November 29, 2000 - 2:30 – 5:30pm

Historically, the tradition of Participatory Design has emphasized the practical and political possibilities that, in principle, follow from bringing multiple voices and agencies into the process of designing technical systems.  As research and design practitioners in this tradition are well geared to amplify the openings for such possibilities, the collective development of critical lenses through which to comprehend such projects is itself a project whose realization is never complete.  As more voices and agencies are brought into design projects, relations of power, far from ameliorated, become structured in different, subtle and complex manners.  The comprehension of these calls for theoretically nuanced, empirical, and non-positivistic frameworks.  As we conceive them, critical approaches are not apriori skeptical of the political potentials that have been sought under the rubric of the participatory design tradition.  Rather, critical approaches are ones that are willing to put up with the complexities of human life toward elucidating the organization of powers and interests in the context of participatory design projects.

Seeing Shadows of the Sun will be a forum in which to deliberate difficult questions about how to study multiple forms of power relations that occur within the ambit of participatory design projects.  We are trying to open a dialogue about modes of criticality within PD, and new directions therein. The workshop will be built around the joint analysis of a concrete case example using key theoretical concepts presented by each discussant. We will be using the example of the development of Linux as a foil for these discussions. We will have Five Workshop Presenters, and a Mediator, Professor James Taylor from the University of Montreal, will be facilitating the joint creation of a perspective on how the different concepts relate to each other. The three-hour time period will take the form of coherent, interactive discussion structured by the introduction of five concepts. We will be amplifying, but not limiting the discussion to, some key concepts, such as: "the social construction of the user"; "the activity system"; "contradiction"; "hegemonic process"; and "the tertiary level of artifacts", By presenting these concepts and inviting participants to discuss them together, we aim to consider criticality in participatory design research.

We invite you to attend our workshop and help us to develop these ideas. Hope to see you there.

- Birgit, James, Jonna, Jyri, Katie, and Matt




Panel Participants and their interests and affiliations

Birgit Jaeger, Roskilde University, Denmark

Birgit has been a part of a recently finished European study called Social Learning in Multimedia where she, among other things, has made a case study of the Digital City of Copenhagen. In this study she worked with concepts like the representation of the user, appropriation of technology and social learning.

Jyri Engestrom, University of Helsinki, Finland

Jyri is studying innovation processes at an Internet design and consulting start-up. He is interested in the development of new knowledge in the "middle space" between the individual and the collective. He is writing his Master’s thesis at the Department of Sociology, University of Helsinki.

Jonna Kangasoja, University of Helsinki, Finland

Jonna is a Doctoral Student at the Center for Activity Theory and Developmental Work Research, University of Helsinki. Operating within the framework of cultural-historical activity theory, she has been studying the parallel development of both material and digital infrastructure to facilitate communal development in the "Art and Design City" district under construction in Helsinki.

Katie Vann, University of California, San Diego, USA

Katie Vann is a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Communication, UCSD. She is an ethnographer of labor, and characterizes her research orientation with the metaphor "Ethno-Informatics". This entails a focus on the development of human actors' normative rationality about how and why information ought to be created, categorized, stored, shared, and utilized toward particular ends.

Matt Ratto, University of California, San Diego, USA

Matt Ratto is a Graduate Student in Communication at UCSD. His work focuses on theories which allow a critical understanding of the webs of relations around technologies. He is currently working on an historical analysis of the development of the computer operating system Linux which examines the co-construction of artifacts and communitites. The goal of Matt's work is two-fold; first to devise ways that a more detailed theory of technology can encourage new design practices, and second to create pedagogical systems that can teach critical evaluation skills to technology users.

Invited commentator

James R. Taylor, University of Montreal, Canada

James R. Taylor is Professor Emeritus at the University of Montreal. He has been engaged in the area of organizational communication and new technologies in the tradition of participatory design research. Professor Taylor is, among other things, a recent co-author of The Emergent Organization: Communication as Its Site and Surface and The Computerization of Work: A Communication Perspective.

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