New paper: Designing in “Constellations”

pdc2016-logoWe will be presenting at PDC16 in August (in Denmark!) on a new paper.  Ours is a short paper under the umbrella of “Participatory Design With and Within Communities” (see the program for Short Papers Session A).


Designing in “Constellations”: Sustaining participatory design in neighborhoods

by Karl Baumann, Benjamin Stokes, François Bar, and Ben Caldwell


Sustaining participation in design is difficult, especially in neighborhoods that seek change consistent with their cultural values. Participatory Design offers several approaches (e.g. infrastructuring) that help to balance the sensibilities of urban planning with the immediacies of design. This paper investigates the distinctive value of a “constellation” of participatory activities that sustained engagement throughout the design of an urban plaza, combining physical and digital flows. Based on a three-year collaboration in a historically black South LA neighborhood, this study analyzes the re-invention of urban furniture – payphones, bus benches, newspaper boxes, planters, and public displays – into community interactions. After reviewing the concrete vision of this constellation, the City of Los Angeles decided to fund the implementation of a pedestrian plaza. This paper articulates our methods of infrastructuring, providing techniques that sustain participation over time around physical urban objects that become touch points for fluid groups of designers. More than any one design, the constellation approach provides a platform for horizontal iteration, maintaining focus and participation in imagining a neighborhood’s socio-technical future.

The full PDF is available via the ACM Proceedings.

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