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Participatory Design as the Temporal Flow of Coalescing Participatory Lines

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This paper argues that the existing literature on participatory design (PD) tends to focus on frontstage design interactions (workshops, participants, methodologies, techniques, etc.) to facilitate PD ‘here and now’—referred to as the interactional approach . In contrast, the paper proposes to contribute to an evolving literature, referred to as the transformational approach , that takes a more longitudinal line and which attends to both the frontstage and backstage within an extended temporal frame. To do this the paper draws on the work of the social anthropologist Tim Ingold, in particular, his concept of the happening of ongoing life as a bundle of flowing lines. The paper argues that PD becomes possible when ongoing participation is conceived of as a set of corresponding (or coalescing) and conditioning lines of flow—each line with its own history, attentionality, rhythms, tempos and so forth. To illustrate what this reorientation might mean for PD the paper draws on an in-depth action research study of a PD initiative that sought to develop a digital service to address loneliness and social isolation in a rural location in the UK. The paper explores how project members, individual participants, non-governmental organisation, government representatives, evaluators and funders co-responded to each other (or not) as they engaged, or became implicated, in the PD process. The paper concludes with some practical implications of what such an Ingoldian reorientation might mean for the ongoing development of PD as a transformational methodology.


Hayes, Niall; Introna, Lucas D.; Cass, Noel (2021): Participatory Design as the Temporal Flow of Coalescing Participatory Lines. Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 30, No. 4. DOI: 10.1007/s10606-021-09405-4. Springer. PISSN: 1573-7551. pp. 507-538