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Liam Bannon is professor emeritus and
founding director of the Interaction Design
Centre at the University of Limerick, Ireland.
He has been involved in the development
of European research communities in HCI,
interaction design, participatory design, and
CSC W over many years. He has held visiting
professor positions in several universities.
Jeffrey Bardzell is professor of informatics
and director of HCI/Design in the School of
Informatics, Computing, and Engineering
at Indiana University - Bloomington. He
researches aesthetic interaction, research
through design, and digital innovation. He
co-authored Humanistic HCI (Morgan Claypool,
2015) and co-edited Critical Theory and
Interaction Design (MI T, 2018).
Susanne Bødker is professor in the
Department of Computer Science at Aarhus
University in Denmark. She co-manages the
interdisciplinary Center for Participatory I T
and heads the recently started ERC project
on Common Interactive Objects. She does
participatory design, computer-supported
collaborative work, and activity theory.
The focus on politics and critical/
political theory is a good fit, because
early PD projects sought to think bigger
than interfaces, systems, and apps;
and bigger than practices, teams, and
sites/situations. In particular there
was a strong interest in and concern
for technological alternatives, both
arising from within the projects and on
the general horizon of the technological
landscape. In the wake of the many new
analytic methods, we invite researchers
to be more daring when it comes to
proposing and scrutinizing technological
alternatives, from the point of view of
their usefulness to people, not merely
as new business cases.
More subtly political is the global
interest in teaching children skills
and practices of computer use. On the
one hand, such education empowers
children to participate in the ways
that computing shapes present and
future societies, including their
own, as they grow up. On the other
hand, it leaves large parts of the adult
For example, manufacturers are
struggling to find qualified workers
to work in computationally mediated
factories. We see a white-collar bias in
how computer use is understood and
taught—focusing on entrepreneurship
and certain forms of innovation, with
less emphasis on how computing is
changing machines and their uses in
This is ironic, considering
that first-generation PD projects
developed training courses for union
representatives that emphasized ways
in which blue-collar workers might be
trained not just to use existing tools,
but also to understand and influence
the development of computing itself.
Today, these courses have largely been
forgotten, but an updated rethinking
of such initiatives offers the potential
for a wider curriculum for adult courses
as a supplement to school curricula,
empowering people at large regarding
computing technology in their work
AS A CONTINUALLY
While work in the field of PD has
evolved over the years, in many cases
the changes have been incremental,
and many of the basic tenets of the field
have not changed substantively, with
some exceptions. Indeed, we noted
earlier how the political dimension of
PD, present in the early days of PD,
has tended to be minimized in more
recent work. Perhaps coincidentally,
we have also observed the decline of
many of PD’s gains given the rise of
global multinationals and their use of
We saw throughout the submissions
a tension between expanding versus
contracting PD. The expanding
impulse is evident in the application
of participatory design in ever
widening contexts and situations. The
contracting impulse is seen in the many
attempts to return to participatory
design’s origins as well as to gatekeep.
While we support research that
investigates and excavates the
foundations of PD in the hope of
carrying them forward, we do not
support a return to classic PD. Instead,
in an era of globalization and political
extremism, with its accompanying
technological platforms and forms
of corporate governance, we call on
researchers to leverage design for a
more equitable world. That pursuit
can be shaped by the core emphases of
PD—public participation, sensitivity
to social conflict, shared trust, mutual
learning, security and fairness—
updated to reflect today’s world as well
as contemporary sociopolitical theory
and activist methods.
This pursuit cannot happen
through any single piece of work
or contribution, but rather as an
ongoing, iterative process of dialogue
involving multiple stakeholders
and interests. The ToCHI special
issue was only a start. We view this
article as a contribution to the debate
among related research and action
communities, which is the goal for our
Reimagining Participatory Design
project. We envision the future as
an evolving set of directions and
encourage a multiplicity of voices and
opinions to contribute to this ongoing
debate about the future of PD.
1. Bannon, L., Bardzell, J., and Bødker,
S. Reimagining participatory design—
Emerging voices. ACM Trans. Comput.-Hum. Interact. 25, 1 (Feb. 2018).
2. Simonsen, J. and Robertson, T. Routledge
DOI: 10.1145/3292015 COPYRIGH T HELD BY AUTHORS. PUBLICATION RIGHTS LICENSED TO ACM. $15.00