Personal tools


PD: readings

Working Groups
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.

The Utopia project is one of the most frequently cited early examples of Participatory Design. In particular, it was a showcase for the Collective Resource Approach. Graffiti was a high quality publication produced by the project. Issue 7, written in English and cited above, summarizes the project and perspectives on it in a series of short articles together with photographs of all the participants and the technology "in action." Clement, A., & Besselaar, P. V. d. (1993). A retrospective look at PD projects. Communications of the ACM, 36(4), 29-39. Comparison of 10 PD projects, including some of the best-known Scandinavian projects, along several dimensions including setting, process, and results. Ehn, P. (1988). Work-Oriented Design of Computer Artifacts. Stockholm: Arbetslivscentrum. ABSTRACT:

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.

Ehn, P. (1992). Scandinavian Design: On Participation and Skill. In P. S. Adler and T. A. Winograd (Eds.), Usability: Turning technologies into tools (pp. 96-132). New York: Oxford University Press.

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.

First edition was in 1989. History of "participative design" in Australia; includes comparison with Socio-technical systems (STS) work. Chapters are written by Fred Emery and Merrelyn Emery. Floyd, C., Mehl, W.-M., Reisin, F.-M., Schmidt, G., & Wolf, G. (1989). Out of Scandinavia: Alternative Approaches to Software Design and System Development. Human-Computer Interaction, 4(4), 253-350. A landmark paper on the Scandinavian experience - includes descriptions of several of the classic first and second generation participatory design projects including the Norwegian Iron and Metal Workers project, DEMOS, DUE, Utopia, and Florence. The article is especially informative in terms of the history and roots of the so-called "Scandinavian approach." Here are some detailed notes. Greenbaum, J., & Kyng, M. (Eds.). (1991). Design at Work: Cooperative Design of Computer Systems. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. For those interested in designing systems in cooperation with users, this collection of papers by prominent researchers in the field is an excellent resource. The first group of papers offers reflections on design and work from the perspectives of human interface design, linguistics, ethnography, and cultural anthropology, each grounded in the practical experiences of its authors. The second group presents practical techniques for system design in cooperation with work practitioners, including how to use design representations from mock-ups to computer prototypes, design for tailorability, and engage workers in discussions of (re)design of technology and organizational practices. Though published in 1991, this volume continues to be an essential introduction to the wide range of techniques and perspectives that comprise what is called participatory design. Grønbæk, K. (1991). Prototyping and active user involvement in system development: Towards a cooperative prototyping approach. Ph.D. dissertation, Computer Science Department, Aarhus University, Denmark. This Ph.D. dissertation is the primary reference for "cooperative prototyping," an excellent example of how participatory design perspectives can change the way system development is practiced. The first part of the dissertation, an extended summary, describes the history of prototyping and user involvement in system development and motivates and explains cooperative prototyping. The remainder is a collection of five papers related to cooperative prototyping by Grønbæk (three are coauthored with Susanne Bødker, one with Randy Trigg). Gustavsen, B. (1995). Development and the social sciences - An uneasy relationship. In S. Toulmin, B. Gustavsen, & J. Benjamins (Eds.), Beyond theory: Changing organizations through participation. Amsterdam: ??, ??-?? Good discussion of the Tavistock roots of action research. Includes discussion of the two "big" problems: (1) the diffusion problem, and (2) the problem of grand theory and everyday events. Also talks about the sources of the work environment reforms in Norway.

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.

Kraft, P., & Bansler, J. P. (1994). The Collective Resource Approach: The Scandinavian experience. Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems, 6(1), 71-84. This provocative paper first appeared in the PDC'92 conference. It's republication in the "Debate" section of SJIS was accompanied by a response from Morten Kyng titled, "Collective Resources meets Puritanism" and a rebut from Bansler and Kraft titled, "Privilege and invisibility in the new work order: A reply to Kyng."

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.

Kuhn, S. (1996). Design for people at work. In T. Winograd, J. Bennett, L. D. Young, P. S. Gordon, & B. Hartfield (Eds.), Bringing Design to Software. Addison-Wesley, ??-?? Includes discussion of the history of participatory design, the collective resource approach, workplace democracy, and the codetermination laws between unions and management. Closes with calls for a workers' bill of rights (example is the Machinists' Union's proposed Technology Bill of Rights) and for a code of ethics for designers.

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.

Kyng, M., & Mathiassen, L. (Eds.). (1997). Computers and Design in Context. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Contributions to this book were selected from the Third Decennial Conference at the University of Aarhus, Denmark, Computers in Context: Joining Forces in Design, August 14-18, 1995. From the book jacket:

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. …

Kyng, M. (1995). Users and computers: A contextual approach to design of computer artifacts. Ph.D., Aarhus University, Denmark. Morten Kyng's Ph.D. thesis consists of an extended (46 page) introduction together with a large collection of papers he has written over the years. The introduction includes a brief history of the Collective Resource Approach in Scandinavia in which Kyng played a major role. Muller, M., & Kuhn, S. (1993). Special issue on Participatory Design. Communications of the ACM, 36(4). Primarily articles taken from PDC'92. Authors include Andrew Clement, Erran Carmel, Randall Whitaker, William Anderson, William Crocca, Kim Halskov Madsen, Kaj Grønbæk, Morten Kyng, Preben Mogensen, Finn Kensing, Andreas Munk-Madsen, Barbara Katzenberg, Ina Wagner. Also includes sidebars by Christiane Floyd, Enid Mumford, Susan Harker, David Novick, and Eleanor Wynn, among others. Nygaard, K. (1975). Kunnskaps-strategi for fagbevegelsen (Knowledge strategy for trade unions). Nordisk Forum 6, 10(2), 15-27. This article is important both as a historical resource for understanding the roots of the trade union-based collective resource approach in Scandinavia, and as raising some issues important for us today, especially those of us interested in working closer with unions in the US. It was written at the close of the oft-cited project with the Norwegian Iron and Metalworkers association of trade unions (NJMF). It covers primarily the goals of the researchers and union representatives at the start of the project, how those changed over the 2 1/2 year course of the collaboration, and an appraisal of the results. For those who are interested in learning more, but can't read Norwegian, I've put together some detailed notes. Nygaard, K. (1996). "Those were the days"? Or "Heroic times are here again"? Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems, 8(2), 91-108. Opening lecture at the IRIS conference of August 1996. Lots of good stories from Nygaard's life including a description of the Iron and Metalworkers Union project in the early 1970's, often cited as the first Scandinavian project in participatory design. Closes with challenges for the future. Pape, T. C., & Thoresen, K. (1992). Evolutionary prototyping in a change perspective: A tale of three municipalities. Information Technology & People, 6(2-3), 145-170. This landmark Norwegian "case handling" project moved from municipality to municipality gaining in knowledge and experience along the way. This was indeed "prototyping" of more than just software. Sandberg, Å., Broms, G., Grip, A., Sundström, L., Steen, J., & Ullmark, P. (1992). Technological Change and Co-Determination in Sweden. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. From the preface: "This book presents a broad discussion of new forms of job design and innovative trade union approaches to such changes based on examples and analyses of experiences in Sweden." An excellent resource for those interested in the crucial role of trade unions in the development of Scandinavian co-determination laws and participatory design approaches.

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

Schuler, D., & Namioka, A. (Eds.). (1993). Participatory Design: Principles and Practices. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Suchman, L. (1988). Designing with the User: Review of "Computers and Democracy: A Scandinavian challenge". ACM Transactions on Information Systems, 6(2), 173-183.

[It would be great if we could put this up in html - it's fine with Lucy, but we need to check with ACM.] Sørensen, A. B. (1992). Aktionsforskning om og i arbejdslivet (Action research about and in work life). Tidsskrift for samfunnsforskning, 33, 213-230. From the English language summary at the end of the article:

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.

Winner, L. (1994). Political artifacts in Scandinavia: An American perspective. Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems, 6(2), 85-94. Winner's essay includes a nice synopsis of the Scandinavian experience, and some concrete questions:
  • 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?

This page is produced by CPSR members Randy Trigg and Andrew Clement. Comments, suggestions and pointers to other resources are welcome.

Last updated on July 22, 1999

E-mail with questions or comments.

Archived CPSR Information
Created before October 2004

Sign up for CPSR announcements emails


International Chapters -

> Canada
> Japan
> Peru
> Spain

USA Chapters -

> Chicago, IL
> Pittsburgh, PA
> San Francisco Bay Area
> Seattle, WA
Why did you join CPSR?

In these times, this is the kind of organization that technology professionals should be a part of.