Aarhus University Seal

Unfolding participation

The center is closed, and the website is therefore no longer being updated.

Fundamental aspects of participatory design

Politics People who are affected by a decision should have an opportunity to influence it.
People People play critical roles in design by being experts in their own lives.
Context The use situation is the fundamental starting point for the design process.
Methods Methods are means for users to gain influence in design processes.
Product The goal of participation is to design alternatives, improving quality of life.

The last few years have witnessed a growing realisation from various research communities interested in participatory approaches to information technology – the Scandinavian participatory design one but HCI more generally – that it is high time to define what they mean by participation (Halskov & Hansen, 2014; Vines et al., 2012). The time seems also ripe to start building rigour and accountability into research practices in these fields (Frauenberger et al., 2014).

The aim of the PIT theme Unfolding participation is to return to one of the core questions of PIT: What counts as participation? This theme will provide an arena where we bring forward our own experiences with participation and invite others to bring their own. We will thus open up the different meanings of participation used in the fields of HCI and PD as well as some key issues and challenges identified there. We will also start conversations with practitioners and researchers from other fields, such as political studies, urban planning, participatory arts, and business, around the topic of participation, bringing forward the notion of IT-mediated participation there.

Some of the issues and challenges that we want to bring to the table relate to the following: the actors in participatory processes (Who initiates participation? Who are the participants? What about non-humans as participants?), the shaping and unfolding of the participatory processes over time (What are the conditions that shape participation? What are the dynamics of participations? How does participation unfold over time? How and when can participation be sustained, and why?), and the boundaries of participation (e.g. When does participation end and collaboration begin?). Additionally, we also want to better acknowledge our vantage point, which is a Scandinavian one. How does this shape our practice of participatory IT, and what does it mean when we are also part of a wider global reality where different modes of production and sharing are shaping new cultures of participation?


The theme of Unfolding Participation is more of a horizontal one that cuts through all the other PIT themes. The planned activities will include a series of internal working sessions on the theme on participation, seminars with invited guests and a workshop on the theme of Unfolding Participation at an international conference.



Basballe, D. A., Halskov, K., Hansen, N. B., 2016, "The Early Shaping of Participatory Design at PDC", PDC 2016 Participatory Design in an Era of Participation. Article in proceedings

Dalsgaard, P., Halskov, K., Iversen, O. S., 2016, "Participation Gestalt", CHI ’16. Article in proceedings

Frauenberger C., Good,J., Fitzpatrick, J. and Iversen, O. (2014). In pursuit of rigour and  accountability in participatory design. In International Journal of Human-Computer Studies. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijhcs.2014.09.004

Halskov, K. & Hansen, N.B. (2014) The diversity of participatory design research practice at PDC 2002-2012. In International Journal of Human-Computer Studies. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijhcs.2014.09.003

Vines, J. et al. (2012). Summary Report on CHI 2012 invited SIG: Participation and HCI: Why Involve People in Design?