Accepted Paper:

In search of good participatory practices: design workshops for ageing citizens as negotiations of agency, knowledge and power  
Tiina Suopajärvi (University of Turku)

Paper short abstract:

The presentation discusses how participatory design practices, ethnographic analysis and the theoretical perspectives of agency, knowledge and power meet in anthropological study. The entanglement is scrutinized through the workshops that confronted the problems between ageing citizens and the city.

Paper long abstract:

The design of the "smart city" of Oulu in northern Finland has neglected the use of participatory methods; and therefore the public ubiquitous technology has mainly been designed for younger city dwellers. Regardless how the usefulness of ethnographic methodology in participatory design processes has been acknowledged in technology studies across disciplinary borders. In my current study, I consequently look for good participatory practices with ageing citizens in the frameworks of applied anthropology, participatory action research but also through the theoretical concepts of agency and knowledge. I thus follow Paul Sillitoe's (2007) notion that applied anthropological study should include macro-scale analysis and theoretical understanding of the studied phenomena.

In order to respect the original idea of participatory design, i.e. that design should start with the needs and interests of prospective "users"; I have organized open-ended "Oulu of ageing citizens?" workshops. Together with the city dwellers aged 64-89, city officials, and computer scientists we have looked for the crucial elements related to the everyday lives of the aged, as well as to the relationship between them and the city as the provider of public services. In my presentation, I will discuss how the practices of design process meet both the descriptive ethnographic analysis and the theoretical concepts I'm working with. Lucy Suchman (2002) underlines how knowledge and knowing are situated in social positions and orders, we know from certain location. Accordingly, I will consider how power travels in our workshops through knowledge produced in them.

Panel P075
Working in the between: theoretical scholarship and applied practice