Monday, March 07, 2005

(Reading Roundup: Bodker & Iversen, Davies et al on Participatory Design)

Originally posted: Mon, 07 Mar 2005 21:55:52

Things have been very busy around here, particularly because my qualitative research class is in the middle of student-led discussions. That means five or more readings each class day for three weeks. I have seen a remarkable number of articles on case studies, participatory design, phenomenology, and ethnography. It's been enjoyable, but exhausting.

Of the recent readings, I was most interested in the participatory design readings. Along those lines, I was very glad to see Bodker and Iversen's "Staging a professional participatory design practice: moving PD beyond the initial fascination of user involvement," a paper that recently appeared at NordiCHI. Like Blomberg and Henderson's paper on the Trillium project, this paper tries to bring some methodological coherence to participatory design. Bodker was one of the early PD pioneers, and she has long been interested in injecting some rigor into the process; this paper continues that work by critiquing methodologically suspect PD projects and suggesting how PD can be made more professional and rigorous.

Davies et al.'s " The ethnographically informed participatory design of a PD application to support communication" also turned out to be highly interesting. This project involved developing a PDA application for a man with aphasia, "an acquired language deficit which diminishes the capacity to communicate through language" (p.153). It's a striking case: I typically think of accessibility as an issue that affects readers, but this case involves improving technology for a writer who relies on his PDA for everyday communication. What an interesting application of the "toolbelt" philosophy, and what a wake-up call for those of us who have concentrated almost exclusively on adding titles to IMG tags.

As always, I'm overwhelmed by the sheer amount of scholarship out there, and I'm struck once again by how little of it we can know of it. Back to reading.

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