New Challenges for Design Participation in the Era of Ubiquitous Computing

Margot Brereton, Jacob Buur

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Since the event of participatory design in the work democracy projects of the 1970’s and 1980’s in Scandinavia, computing technology and people’s engagement with it have undergone fundamental changes. Although participatory design continues to be a precondition for designing computing that aligns with human practices, the motivations to engage in participatory design have changed, and the new era requires formats that are different from the original ones. Through the analysis of three case studies this paper seeks to explain why participatory design must be brought to bear on the field of ubiquitous computing, and how this challenges the original participatory design thinking. In particular we will argue that more casual, exploratory formats of engagement with people are required, and rather than planning the all-encompassing systems development project, participatory design needs to move towards iterative, experimental design explorations to provide necessary understanding of today’s complex contexts and practices. We argue that there does not need to be a discrepancy between the ideals of empowering people with new technology, and the understanding of customer value in a business perspective.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCoDesign - International Journal of CoCreation in Design and the Arts
Pages (from-to)101-113
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • Participatory design
  • ubiquitous computing
  • community
  • dentistry
  • refrigeration


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