Non-human Personas. Including Nature in the Participatory Design of Smart Cities

Martin Tomitsch, Joel Fredericks, Dan Vo, Jessica Frawley, Marcus Foth
pp.  102 – 130, download


For the past decades humans have been placed at the centre of designing information and communication technologies (ICT), leading to the rise in prominence of human-centred design. The field of smart cities has equally adopted notions of citizen participation as a way to ensure that technological solutions improve people’s livelihoods. However, these kinds of processes treat the urban environment as separate from nature, promoting human comfort and convenience over planetary health and wellbeing. Motivated by these growing concerns that highlight the urgency to reconsider how we define and practice participation in smart cities and in human-centred ICT solutions more broadly, this article assesses how the personas method can be adapted to include more-than-human perspectives in the design process. Based on a case study, which involved designing smart urban furniture for human and non-human use, we introduce a framework for developing and employing non-human personas. As a key element of the framework, we describe a middle-out approach for forming a coalition that can speak on behalf of the non-human species that are impacted by design decisions. We demonstrate how the framework can be used through its retrospective application on two research-led smart city projects. The article concludes with a discussion of key principles for creating and using non-human personas in design projects.

Keywords: Design tools, more-than-human, non-anthropocentric, non-human, participatory design, personas, post-anthropocentric, smart cities. 

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