The workshop will engage participants in interactive activities with a focus to generate plural understandings and epistemological views through the use of PD methods. Further, it will create insights into ways in which different choices are made based on diverse epistemologies, methodologies and continental demarcations. Grounded by the PDC 2020 theme, the workshop intends to look beyond traditional PD narratives and co-design more adoptable PD approaches and methods within a transcultural and transdisciplinary mode. A central aim of the workshop will be to gather a diversity of decolonising practices; methods, concepts and approaches applied in diverse contexts, that demonstrate research and knowledge practices for plural epistemologies, marginalised voices, situated socio-political and historical contexts, etc. through participatory processes.  

Decolonising Participatory Design

PD has a long history of addressing power relations and issues of democracy and empowerment with special attention to engaging local and marginalised groups, citizens and organisations in processes of mutual learning and bottom-up development [3]. Equally, the ongoing appropriation of PD outside of Scandinavia in particular to the global south, has focused on the inclusion and ‘empowerment’ of local communities and citizens, but also prompted critical concerns of the original Westernised model’s applicability to the rest of the world [23, 4]. The cultural lenses chosen determine participant engagement approaches as well as research outcomes. A postcolonial perspective points to the fact that design practices are far from universal, and are still based on Western epistemologies and applied in developing countries without much consideration of the local knowledge systems [5, 11, 10, 21]. Thus, one could argue that well intended PD practices intrinsically still promote neocolonial design. Current design thinking and acting is deeply ingrained in Western ways of knowing thereby constraining researchers in future makings and methodological reflections. Thus, the decolonising design discourse is of an ontological nature and requires a transdisciplinary and transcultural dialogue to radically transform design [11, 19].

Yet, there seem to be theoretical and methodological gaps in PD in relation to contemporary discourses of decolonising design. Such gaps are visible also in practice in different domains, from the widespread generalisation of design methods and approaches, to non-profit organisations’ commodification of aid in the underdeveloped world [10], and industry development and distribution of one-size-fits-all tech applications to the global market. 

Decolonising PD Practices 

The workshop examines how participatory designers are responding to the critical calls for humanistic, contextualised and de-westernising approaches to design and development across local and regional research contexts. Based on promising examples of decolonising directions on different continents, described in the following, we aim to create a basis for evolving decolonising PD practices connected to such domains as:

Localisation through promotion of local conferences such as AfriCHI and other initiatives to support strong local research communities. ICT4D though engaged in local initiatives to support development is often still based on Western ideals and evaluation parameters of the developing world [9]. Incorporating local practices and values, such as the suggested afrocentric approach to HCI [22] promotes alternative knowledge creations. 

Community engagement through a transcultural approach, looks beyond traditional individual cultures and focuses on transcultural technology design methods that adopt, support and continuously create new meanings from diverse settings. A transcultural approach focuses on being culturally aware when designing with culturally diverse communities and groups, embracing pluralistic social practices and heightening of awareness [23].

An increasing number of debates around inherent biases in AI, cultural variations in the ethical debates of autonomous vehicles and social robots suggest the realisation for action [12, 7]. Like design, algorithms and intelligent systems are important sites of cultural transformation, and participatory designers and researchers are working against the colonial impulse in ubiquitous computing [8], to develop human, ethical and responsible approaches, principles and guidelines for decolonising emerging technologies in corporate contexts [17, 18, 2]. 

Historical traditions such as participatory action research in Latin America echo strong decolonising practices that focus on the social realities, political struggles and empowerment of marginalised communities [24, 11, 13]. Where some contributions suggest the systematisation of experience to validate alternative southern epistemologies, Escobar argues for notions of ‘pluriversal design’ [10]; creating a world in which ‘many worlds fit’ and that allow the emergence of pluriversal ways of worldmaking. Notions of autonomous design are integral and should support the self-realisation of communities based on southern approaches [6]. 

Contributions from design anthropology offer decolonising approaches to the situated ethics, values and politics of future making [21, 14, 20]. Here, researchers use anthropological approaches and cultural sensibilities to create ‘correspondence’ through a continued engagement and commitment to particular people and lifeworlds [15]. Through collaborative explorations of emergent cultural practices, possible futures are imagined that are deeply aligned with local epistemologies. Such relational sensitivity relates also to the Japanese concept of Ma, ‘between-ness’, used by [1] to explore how designers can work through emerging processes of becoming together.

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