This work presents a Feminist approach to Participatory Design focusing on provoking and subverting hegemonic narratives. Through Design Anthropology projects in the field of Active Aging, I aim at defining design tactics for making the Common visible. The system design literature on Active Aging presents aging as a problem that needs to be fixed and it attributes to older adults aging negative stereotypes, promoting in this way ageism. This narrative is influenced by, as it informs, the EU policies that fund projects on the design of assistive technologies through a rhetoric of compassion towards those considered older people. At date, critical interdisciplinary approaches consider the concept of aging in modern societies as a bio-product of capitalism, since it is related to the end of a person’s work life and therefore the end of her/his productive capacity. My thesis is positioned at the intersection between critical approaches and community-based Participatory Design, considering design as one of the practices for raising awareness and taking care of the common. The Common is the ensemble of material and immaterial resources that allow people to be tied together and it can be looked at in a positive and liberating way, in contrast with hegemonic and normative constraints, as the implications of active aging narrative. In my view Participatory Design is one of the approaches to subvert and rebalance power-relations, and for this reason I adopted it in my work. Therefore, the leading research question is: How can we learn to recognize the Common through a Participatory Design process? To answer this research question, Participatory Design is informed by Design Anthropology and Feminism. The former restitues the importance of anthropological reflexivity in the encounter with the Otherness and the in-depth empirical work of field-work. The latter provides an intersectional lens that offers the decisive lever to shift the focus from the homogeneous fictional image of the ``older person’’, to the rich heterogeneity of human beings, that includes not just the age identity, but multiple identity layers (gender, ethnicity, economy, education...). This shift of focus has been done mainly through the deconstruction of negative aging stereotypes (ageism), predominant in the institutional narratives of Active Aging, whether they are in the policies, in system design literature or in people’s everyday life. In this way the shift of focus highlights the passage from the Active Aging perspective to the Common one, and from the user to the participants towards a collective dimension in which aging becomes a secondary element in favour of the Common, as relational quality and ability to cooperate and self-organize. For this reason the case studies presented are situated in community-based organizations of - in institutional terms - older adults. The case studies are settled in three different contexts and with different design ideas, as they emerge from ethnographic fieldwork: working on public mobility in a grassroot movement of seniors and pensioners in a mountain community; sharing knowledge and competencies in an annual laboratory on digital technologies promoted by a social cooperative and organized by the university; improving communication and making compost in top-down senior social gardens, organized by senior social clubs and promoted by the local municipality. The case studies presented are situated in precarious contexts, that is, in which the available resources are scarce, there is little or not institutional safety net and the only way for the design researcher (myself) to set a project is through building informal and trustful relationships with the participants, nurturing attachments and managing stereotypes that the participants may have about her. The main contribution of my work is having elaborated guidelines that include relational movements and design tactics to reframe hegemonic design contexts and empowering people that are involved in, to re-imagining themselves from users to participants and to be entitled and responsible to design their own technologies in their own means, to strengthen the Common that ties them together. The design processes that me and the communities realized are constituted by the relational movements of exploration, provocation, conflict, reflexivity and appropriation. In contemporary times, where the Common is often dispossessed and converted to a product, and we are called to fight capitalistic forces to maintain the capacity of cooperate, the Common is often not evident in our everyday life. From my empirical work I elaborated three design tactics that can inform design projects that aim at making the Common visible, and these are: decolonizing hegemonic narratives, nurturing attachments with the people we designers work with, and creating contextual ethics to help us making decisions when encountering conflicts between ours and participants’ agendas.

Designing for the Common in precarious contexts. Notes from a Feminist perspective / Tonolli, Linda. - (2018 Oct 25), pp. 1-180. [10.15168/11572_266910]

Designing for the Common in precarious contexts. Notes from a Feminist perspective.

Tonolli, Linda
2018

Abstract

This work presents a Feminist approach to Participatory Design focusing on provoking and subverting hegemonic narratives. Through Design Anthropology projects in the field of Active Aging, I aim at defining design tactics for making the Common visible. The system design literature on Active Aging presents aging as a problem that needs to be fixed and it attributes to older adults aging negative stereotypes, promoting in this way ageism. This narrative is influenced by, as it informs, the EU policies that fund projects on the design of assistive technologies through a rhetoric of compassion towards those considered older people. At date, critical interdisciplinary approaches consider the concept of aging in modern societies as a bio-product of capitalism, since it is related to the end of a person’s work life and therefore the end of her/his productive capacity. My thesis is positioned at the intersection between critical approaches and community-based Participatory Design, considering design as one of the practices for raising awareness and taking care of the common. The Common is the ensemble of material and immaterial resources that allow people to be tied together and it can be looked at in a positive and liberating way, in contrast with hegemonic and normative constraints, as the implications of active aging narrative. In my view Participatory Design is one of the approaches to subvert and rebalance power-relations, and for this reason I adopted it in my work. Therefore, the leading research question is: How can we learn to recognize the Common through a Participatory Design process? To answer this research question, Participatory Design is informed by Design Anthropology and Feminism. The former restitues the importance of anthropological reflexivity in the encounter with the Otherness and the in-depth empirical work of field-work. The latter provides an intersectional lens that offers the decisive lever to shift the focus from the homogeneous fictional image of the ``older person’’, to the rich heterogeneity of human beings, that includes not just the age identity, but multiple identity layers (gender, ethnicity, economy, education...). This shift of focus has been done mainly through the deconstruction of negative aging stereotypes (ageism), predominant in the institutional narratives of Active Aging, whether they are in the policies, in system design literature or in people’s everyday life. In this way the shift of focus highlights the passage from the Active Aging perspective to the Common one, and from the user to the participants towards a collective dimension in which aging becomes a secondary element in favour of the Common, as relational quality and ability to cooperate and self-organize. For this reason the case studies presented are situated in community-based organizations of - in institutional terms - older adults. The case studies are settled in three different contexts and with different design ideas, as they emerge from ethnographic fieldwork: working on public mobility in a grassroot movement of seniors and pensioners in a mountain community; sharing knowledge and competencies in an annual laboratory on digital technologies promoted by a social cooperative and organized by the university; improving communication and making compost in top-down senior social gardens, organized by senior social clubs and promoted by the local municipality. The case studies presented are situated in precarious contexts, that is, in which the available resources are scarce, there is little or not institutional safety net and the only way for the design researcher (myself) to set a project is through building informal and trustful relationships with the participants, nurturing attachments and managing stereotypes that the participants may have about her. The main contribution of my work is having elaborated guidelines that include relational movements and design tactics to reframe hegemonic design contexts and empowering people that are involved in, to re-imagining themselves from users to participants and to be entitled and responsible to design their own technologies in their own means, to strengthen the Common that ties them together. The design processes that me and the communities realized are constituted by the relational movements of exploration, provocation, conflict, reflexivity and appropriation. In contemporary times, where the Common is often dispossessed and converted to a product, and we are called to fight capitalistic forces to maintain the capacity of cooperate, the Common is often not evident in our everyday life. From my empirical work I elaborated three design tactics that can inform design projects that aim at making the Common visible, and these are: decolonizing hegemonic narratives, nurturing attachments with the people we designers work with, and creating contextual ethics to help us making decisions when encountering conflicts between ours and participants’ agendas.
XXX
2016-2017
Ingegneria e scienza dell'Informaz (29/10/12-)
Information and Communication Technology
D'Andrea, Vincenzo
Teli, Maurizio
no
Inglese
Settore INF/01 - Informatica
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