Saturday, October 9, 2004

Configuring technologies and users

User-Centered Design and the Normative Politics of Technology (pdf)
by Karin Garrety and Richard Badham

Reflecting on the application of UCD methods to particular design projects, the authors describe the advantages and limitations of such modernist and normative tools. While their very abstraction and formality allows them to be applied in a variety of contexts, the associated conflation of knowledge and certitude is considered to be ill-conceived. The discrete categories of UCD methods work not because they are "true" but because they are actively reshaped by designers and users in pre-existing social, political and technical contexts to create new ones.

Configuring the User as Everybody: Gender and Design Cultures in Information and Communication Technologies (pdf)
by Nelly Oudshoorn, Els Rommes, and Marcelle Stienstra

Working with the knowledge that technologies have a life history that goes beyond the design trajectory of any specific product, the authors demonstrate that this broader context shapes not only the technology but also the user. Following social-democratic ideals, the mandate to design something that could be accessible and useful to everyone resulted in simultaneously configuring a generic user that represented - and worked for - no one in particular. On the other hand, design practices were seen to reflect predominantly masculine values and further discourage the representation of multiple perspectives needed to disrupt the user-as-everyone model.

The Domestication of New Technologies as a Set of Trials (pdf)
by Turo-Kimmo Lehtonen

Rather than understanding technological adoption in terms of technological innovation invading pre-existing cultural habits and practices, where individual decision makers simply choose to accept or reject new technologies, the author looks at the successive trials or phases of adoption which mobilise - bringing together and pulling apart - a variety of actors, things and people, systems and relationships.

(PDF links are valid only until October 31, 2004)

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