Troubling Futures: Can Participatory Design Research provide a Constitutive Anthropology for the 21st Century?

Ann Light
pp. 81-94, download


This paper argues there is value in considering participatory design as a form of anthropology at a time when we recognise that we need not only to understand cultures but to change them towards sustainable living. Holding up the democratically-oriented practices of some participatory design research to definitions of anthropology allows the essay to explore the role of intervention in social process. And, challenging definitional boundaries, it examines design as a participatory tool for cultural change, creating and interrogating futures (and the idea of futures). In analysing how designing moves towards change in the world, the paper brings together design research and anthropological concepts to help us better understand and operationalise our interventions and pursue them in a fair and sustainable manner.

keywords: Participatory design, Anthropology, Ethnography, Alternative futures, Democratic, Future-making, Constitutive, Everyday design.

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