|Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility|
Participatory Design: Readings
We hope that the following collection of annotated references will help you dig deeper into Participatory Design through its extensive and varied publications. We also have detailed notes for two classic PD articles, "Knowledge Strategy for Trade Unions" by Kristen Nygaard from 1975 on the Norwegian Iron & Metal Workers project, and "Out of Scandinavia" by Christiane Floyd et al from 1989 on the Scandinavian experience. See also our longer bibliography without annotations.
[Each of these should have an html anchor tag so that we can link into this page from the History, Resources, and Topics pages. I'm wondering whether we should group the entries, since some that are closely related (e.g. Lucy's review of Computers and Democracy) wind up far apart in an alphabetical listing.]
Bjerknes, G., & Bratteteig, T. (1987). Florence in Wonderland: System development with nurses. In G. Bjerknes, P. Ehn, & M. Kyng (Eds.), Computers and Democracy - A Scandinavian Challenge. Aldershot, England: Avebury, 279-295.
Bjerknes, G., Ehn, P., & Kyng, M. (Eds.). (1987). Computers and Democracy - A Scandinavian Challenge. Aldershot, England: Avebury.
Bødker, S., Ehn, P., Romberger, S., & Sjögren, D. (Eds.). (1985). The UTOPIA Project: An alternative in text and images (Graffiti 7). Swedish Center for Working Life, the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden and the University of Aarhus, Denmark.
This book is an inquiry into the design of computer artifacts. The emphasis is on opportunities and constraints for industrial democracy.
First, the philosophical foundation of design of computer artifacts is considered. The need for more fundamental understanding of design than the one offered by rationalistic systems thinking is argued. Design is seen as a concerned social and creative activity founded in our traditions, but aiming at transcending them by anticipation and construction of alternative futures.
Second, it is argued that the existing disciplinary boundaries between natural sciences, social sciences and humanities are dysfunctional for the subject matter of designing computer artifacts.
Based on practical research during fifteen years, the author presents a view on work-oriented design of computer artifacts. This concerns the collective resource approach to design of computer artifacts - an attempt to widen the design process to also include trade union activities, and the explicit goal of industrial democracy in design and use.
Finally, a tool perspective - the ideal of skilled workers and designers in cooperation designing computer artifacts as tools for skilled work is considered.
Emery, M. (Ed.). (1993). Participative Design for Participative Democracy (2nd edition ed.). Canberra, Australia: Centre for Continuing Education, The Australian National University, G.P.O> Box 4, Canberra, Australia 2601.
This paper is Chapter 2 of the book, a kind of introduction. (Chapter 1 is a preface by S. Toulmin.) The rest of the book includes case studies and theoretical treatments.
ABSTRACT: The Collective Resource Approach is an innovative Scandinavian approach to the design and implementation of new technologies in the work place. It attempts to empower trade unions and workers at the local level by exploiting the needs of the highly integrated Scandinavian economies to constantly improve their technology. In this paper we discuss the practical impact of the CRA in Scandinavia and its likely relevance to the U.S. We conclude that the Collective Resource Approach has not been accepted by workers and unions nor affected in [sic] major way the day-to-day practice in Scandinavian work places. The reasons are both ideological and embedded in the Scandinavian systems of industrial relations. For somewhat different reasons, notably the disintegration of the U.S. trade union movement, the Collective Resource Approach seems even less likely to serve as a useful model for the United States.
In the same book, see "Profile 14 - Participatory Design" written by Sarah Kuhn and Terry Winograd, for a brief history of PD in Scandinavia and the US.
Too often, designers of computer systems use models and concepts that focus on the artifact while ignoring the context in which the artifact will be used. According to this book, that assumption is a major reason for many of the failures in contemporary computer systems development. It is time for designers and users to join forces in the design of computer systems.
The contributors to this book address both the pragmatic approach of direct collaboration between designers and users (known as participatory design) and the more conceptual approach that incorporates complementary perspectives to help designers come up with better solutions.
Table of contents: Introduction; Industrial relations and co-determination; Innovations in production and work organization; Local unions and technological change; Case Studies: The dairy and the postgiro; Case studies: The engineering workshop and the sugar mill; Implications of the case studies; Comparative perspectives; Multilevel technology strategies; "New management" and good jobs; Appendix: Some labor laws and agreements
Suchman, L. (1988). Designing with the User: Review of "Computers and Democracy: A Scandinavian challenge". ACM Transactions on Information Systems, 6(2), 173-183.
Most Norwegian research on work and working life is carried out as so-called action research. Introduced to Norway in the early sixties by Einar Thorsrud, action research tries to improve work environment and work organization and to gain new understanding and knowledge about organization and work through the process of changes created by the research process. Action research has changed considerably since the field experiments conducted by Thorsrud and collaborators in the sixties. The objective of the early research was to introduce democracy in the workplace and to study the consequences of increased worker participation and changed work design on productivity. Now, the most important type of action research is the so-called participatory action research. Here both the objectives and the implementation of changes in work organization are developed in participation with the workers.
Action reserach has had important and long-term effects on the institutions that regulate working life in Norway. This is most evident in the law about work environment from 1977. However, the activities of the Norwegian action researchers have also been important for the regulation and design of work in the oil and shipping industries.
This article describes this research tradition and attempts to evaluate its scientific contributions. It is argued that action research has developed into a set of tools for producing changes in organizations which satisfy certain ethical and philosophical principles. The formulation of these principles has been an important activity in recent research. Action research has been much less concerned about reporting, to other social scientists, new knowledge and insight about organizational structure and processes. Nor has the study of the effectiveness of techniques for change and the evaluation of the long-term consequences of organizational change been an important concern in recent action research.
Following the Sørensen article in the same issue is a response:
Pålshaugen, Ø. (1992). Aksjonsforskning: En nyttig vitenskap? (Action research: A useful science?). Tidsskrift for samfunnsforskning, 33, 231-251.
The abstract for Pålshaugen's response (translated by R. Trigg): We asked the Work Research Institute (WRI) for a response to Aage B. Sørensen's article. Researcher Øyvind Pålshaugen from WRI responded - not on behalf of WRI - he is speaking only for himself. Pålshaugen, along with Bjørn Gustavsen and Per H. Engelstad, has provided the most comprehensive foundation for action research's strategy.
- Has the theme of democratic participation decreased in importance in Scandinavia?
- What are the "tangible artifacts" resulting from action research? Winner likes looking for the "political artifacts." "Are the results primarily those of improved social processes? Or are there tangible artifacts that have emerged from this work - patterns of relationships between humans, hardware and software that, for example, one could map as a drawing or observe in some working form?" (p. 92)
- Are the products (hardware/software) of democratized design tangibly different from "normal" design? "If you can get the qualities of flexibility, open access and comfortable fit in commercially developed products, then why worry about democratic design at all?" (p. 92)
- Can Scandinavian approaches have more than superficial effects?
- Can Scandinavian approaches survive in the current globalized market context?
- What are the next steps, emerging fields of research?
Last updated on July 22, 1999
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Created before October 2004