ArabHCI network (https://arabhci.
org/) as a common issue across the
Before the school started,
we discussed the project with
community members who worked
at SRTA-City. Some of them were
accustomed to scholars coming to
study their culture and lifestyle.
However, the participatory approach
we intended to adopt was new to
them. They shared the fact that they
were participating because they
were proud of their Bedouin heritage
and recognized the risk of it fading
away due to the urbanization process
affecting the community.
We designed the summer-school
curriculum so that students would
gradually build a partnership with the
chosen community while the instructors
remained as facilitators, scaffolding
and advising students throughout.
The curriculum used interactive
material, emphasizing hands-on
practice and learning by doing.
We used the Double Diamond
design process model (http://www.
design-process-what-double-diamond) by the U.K. Design Council
to structure the school activity.
It is a four-stage model: Discover,
Define, Develop, and Deliver, with
every two phases forming a diamond
shape. The first and third phases
were exploratory, while the second
and fourth were for narrowing the
scope and defining focus. Every stage
took roughly a couple of days in our
curriculum. Lectures were mostly
used in the first exploratory stage. In
each phase, we had a participatory
moment, where students worked
closely with community members.
In the first stage, Discover, we
encouraged students to take a
conceptual leap from being the
engineering student, who is used
to solving well-defined problems,
to becoming a design thinker, who
is co-responsible with the users
for framing the design within
the sociocultural challenges. We
introduced basic HCI concepts such
as usability and user experience, as
well as the bottom-up approach to
The participatory moment in this
phase was a trip we asked community
members to organize for the students
to learn more about Bedouin culture.
We visited a nagae, a group of houses
for the same family, el-Sanakra. They
set up a special Arabian tent for us,
which they normally do only during
their festive events. The Bedouin
culture prohibits young women from
interacting with unknown males.
Thus, the women visitors met the
Bedouin women inside the house,
while the men were hosted in the
tent. The house itself was modern
on the inside, with a flat-screen TV
and a WiFi connection. Everyone,
including the oldest low-literate
women, had mobile phones. The
house featured the traditional burj,
or pigeon house, that they use for
their food and hunting falcons.
The house had fig and pomegranate
trees for the family’s own
consumption, as both crops thrive
in the desert climate. We were
surprised by their modern lifestyle,
which unearthed interesting
discussions about fading traditions.
In the second stage, Define, the
students were divided into teams.
Each team had to define the scope
of their projects (what traditions
they would document, who their
users would be, what the technical
challenges would be). Some of the
students had ideas based on the
reports they collected during the
field trip. We trained students in
methods that helped them better
understand their participants’
needs and perspectives (e.g.,
conducting interviews, ethnographic
observations, cultural probes). We
asked the teams to design a two-
hour workshop with one or two
Bedouin participants to gather
the information that would help
them define their focus. Every
team prepared a semi-structured
interview and designed a probe as a
family gift for their participant.
For instance, one of the teams
designed a family tree, where the
participant was invited to color its
leaves according to his or her level
The pigeon house, or burj.