What We Are Reading

screen of many webcam screens together, participatory media

Design as participation

What it is:

Stemming from a conversation in traffic with Joi Ito, Director of MIT Media Lab, a question about humility leads to the discussion of design as participation. The author, Kevin Slavin in the Media Lab’s Journal of Design and Science, walks the reader through the evolution of the designer at the center of design decisions, to user-centered design, to design as participation within a complex system. Design as participation takes the user away from the center—where designers typically interpret the users’ needs, wants and fears, and translates them into a neatly packaged solution for users to interact. Instead, design becomes a participation within the system where the designer can only influence towards a desired state, but the interaction with system components remains unpredictable. 


Why is it important:

The article challenges current hype on user-centered design. With increasing complexity, it is not enough to design for the user. Designing for complex systems requires a shift from interaction to participation. The shift takes humility to see design as influencing change within the system rather than trying to control or define it. Similarly when designing the future, one seeks to influence the current state towards a desired future and anticipate what we can’t imagine. -RU