Utopias of participation: Design, criticality, and emancipation

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

19 Scopus citations


From its earliest incarnation in labor movements in Scandinavia in the 1970s, Participatory Design has had an emancipatory politics inscribed in it. As PD is appropriated in other contexts, this emancipatory politics can continue to be foregrounded or, as Bannon & Ehn (2013) worry, it can be diluted into corporate practices of "user-centered design." One way to advance the emancipatory politics in PD is to continue PD's early embrace of utopian thinking. Yet utopianism today has a poor reputation, openly rejected by many activists. In this keynote, I will revisit some of the criticisms of utopianism. Next, I will explore an alternative framing of utopianism - derived from feminism and science fiction studies - that could productively inform PD, both epistemologically and methodologically, in its most openly political design goals. I will present some of the ways I have tied to engage with these ideas through design research projects ranging in scale from critical-participatory studies involving local makers to designing for and about the identities and aspirations of entire urban populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 18th International Software Product Line Conference
Subtitle of host publicationCompanion Volume for Workshops, Demonstrations and Tools
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Number of pages2
ISBN (Electronic)9781450327398
StatePublished - Sep 15 2014
Event13th Participatory Design Conference, PDC 2014 - Windhoek, Namibia
Duration: Oct 6 2014Oct 10 2014

Publication series

NameACM International Conference Proceeding Series


Conference13th Participatory Design Conference, PDC 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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