Reading: Participatory Design – The Third Space in HCI

The article discusses the concept of “third spaces” being built that accommodate the views of (typically) designers and users. In particular, it brings in the concept of “Hybridity” as an organizing principal of these spaces “a third space that contains an unpredictable and changing combination of attributes of each of the two bordering spaces.

To me, for something to be a space, it has to have unique content. In other words, there has to be something that exists only in the space to give it bounds. I actually think that in many of the examples mentioned in the article the focus is far more on creating mappings that establish a relationship between concepts and understandings possessed by the users and the designers. The method that I would say truly creates content that is unique to this third space is the section on games. These games have rules and content that only exists in the space. The designers and the users now have to create mappings to the game space.

The other part that I found particularly interesting was the discussion on evaluation and metrics in the Conclusion. The author states that “One of the weaknesses of the literature on participatory practices is the dearth of formal evaluations … Indeed, such studies would be difficult to perform…”

I wonder if evaluations of such systems could be performed using simulation. In Natural Algorithms and Influence Systems, Chazelle describes a simulation framework utilizing natural algorithms for the evaluation of biological and social systems. While reading this paper I was struck with how such simulations could be used to quantify qualitative methods and provide a way of performing at least some level of rigorous evaluation. Since Participatory Design is certainly a qualitative process that is used within a social context, it seems that this might be a good candidate to try out this hunch.

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