Making Participation Relevant to Design

By trying to understand how participation can make design more relevant to society, we can create more socially just cities. This course starts from the premise that it would not be ethical to design cities without creating meaningful conversations with different stakeholders. Our main challenge is to improve the quality and ethics of design work by staying in close contact with the city and its residents. 

Participation is a way of confronting our preconceptions, revealing our blind spots, and/or supporting our intuitions in a context where architecture, urbanism, and other design-related fields are becoming more and more complex and multilayered. Participation is not an end, it is a means: a powerful tool that establishes new connections and boosts both creativity and the production of new ideas. Likewise, participation allows the construction of a collective dialogue that will engage people in different ways, formats, and temporalities. Participation is a method to enable the creation of more democratic, inclusive, and open-ended environments, redefining the very concept of citizenship. 

– How can designers reimagine participatory decision-making processes? 

– How should design participation unfold in an ever-changing reality? 

– What improves communication and enhances creative dialogue? 

– Can participatory design lead to open-ended processes or outcomes? 

Among other strategies deployed to answer these questions, the class will focus on the potential contribution of digital technologies as a means for linking participation to design. Technology opens new opportunities for revealing multiple layers of meaning. It also allows the exchange of information and creation of new possibilities that together can transform the way we behave. Technology, in short, enables us to better relate and interact with each other and our surroundings, thus lowering the barriers for citizen engagement. 

Throughout the semester, we will look for alternative means and untapped opportunities to identify and develop socially and technologically innovative approaches, methodologies, and tools. Students will be asked to combine technical skills and knowledge production with a social sensibility to access the direct experience of reality while also producing forms of empowerment that come from involving the relevant actors in transformative processes. 

Prerequisites: None.