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Published April 1, 2021 | Version 1.0
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Keywords in Participatory Design (V1.0)

  • 1. Parsons School of Design, US
  • 2. Aalto University, Finland
  • 3. RMIT, Australia
  • 4. Carleton University, Canada
  • 5. Universidad de los Andes, Colombia


Participatory Design (PD) grew out of linkages between technology designers and worker movements in the 1970s. Now, as participation has emerged as an increasingly popular and contested idea in design fields and education, conversations about what we mean by “participation,” who gets to participate and to what ends, and how we imagine the kinds of knowledge central to collective practices, are critical.

We came together for the first time in New York City, January 30th 2020, for a committee meeting for the 16th Participatory Design Conference (PDC) to be held in Manizales, Colombia. This was just before the pandemia was declared. As part of that meeting Shana organized a panel discussion with all of us, with the same theme as this zine.

The panel was the starting point of a creative exploration with some of the keywords–concepts that we consider crucial in/for Participatory Design. We continued to interrogate them throughout the PDC 2020, which, because of the pandemia, ended up being an online-only conference.

We offer this initial collection of keywords as conversation starting points, teasers, and evocations for further debates and inquiry, but also, importantly, for untold reflections and bridges to alternative worlds. Each word brought together two or more of us to make a start, and each of us played freely with the words to arrive at what we present here as a collective of super idiotic creatures [sic].

We hope, with humility, you would join us in our continued journey to ground and challenge these key concepts, and imagine where their exploration can take us. This zine - version 1 - contains an initial set of 12 keywords, which are merely starters. More words could and should be added; the current 12 could also be further explored in depth and sideways. Browse them, use them, play with them, and also please visit the online editable version at [] to comment, suggest new entries, and volunteer as contributors to one or more future versions of the zine.

As we envision this as a continuous joint community effort, the materials are released under a CC-BY-NC license.



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