Sunday, April 15, 2012

A little writing about participatory design

It was written in Spring 2011 during my senior design seminar class at MICA (Baltimore, MD). We were asked to explore 4 different fields on design (participatory design, space design, print and code).

Here is the 1st one on participatory design.

Participatory Design by Ruth Tsang
As the web becomes more “interactive,” participatory design becomes more popular. It not only allows users to get information, but it also allows and even encourages them to distribute information and express themselves as they see fit. Participatory design allows people to share, to create, to experience, and to influence projects and phenomenon outside of their every day lives. It can trigger information sharing and as such, the web has become a central source of information and a major creative outlet for everyday people. 

While some people argue that the Internet world isolates people and blocks real communication, I think participatory design can help connect people. Ze Frank is an web artist who makes use of the Internet to start participatory/collaborative projects with people from around the world. I watched his TED talk about some of the collaborative projects he has come up with and it was both inspiring and entertaining. He has started projects that encourage people to participate. Once they have been completed, he puts them together as a finished piece. He sets the rules and requirements, encourages people to participate and respond to his project, and then finally, he puts all of the elements together to present it as a finished piece. Even though he gets a wide variety of work, he still maintains a certain amount control over the finished piece, especially refining the presentation. Overall, this is one of the most important parts of the project as it requires design skill and an all encompassing vision of the project. 
I think the role of designers in participatory design will grow to be even more important since there is less control over the principle content. The concept and the process planning become critical because they will greatly affect the presentation, chosen content, and feel of the finished product. Another major consideration is the user experience, and how the viewers will interact with the materials/project provided. 

People contribute to the web more actively than we think, and some people wonder why. Even if it’s 0.1 second in a Music video, 1 image out of thousands, or 1 out of one million giraffe drawings, people are willing to contribute, helping the group finish the project. The One million giraffe project started as a random side project that was the result of a bet between the creator and a friend. It sounds stupid, but it also sounds like fun, so people participated and he managed to collect one million giraffes within the space of a year and a half. The project has been a huge success and there has even been a book version of the final product. Another example of this collaborative art approach is the annual Sketchbook Project. Launched by the Art House Co-op, people are required to pay for a sketchbook and once the participants have filled with whatever they want to submit, the sketchbooks are submitted and exhibited along with thousands of other entries. Maybe the people value the 1 in 10,000 of of a chance to gain some exposure, maybe they value the process of anonymous collaboration, or maybe they just want to have some fun. Who knows? The collaborative web is shaping and defining our generation and how it interacts with each other.

Ze Frank
Ze Frank TED talk
One Million Giraffes
The Sketchbook project

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