The Design of Pseudo-Participation

Victoria Palacin, Matti Nelimarkka, Pedro Reynolds-Cuéllar, and Christoph Becker. 2020. The Design of Pseudo-Participation. In Proceedings of the 16th Participatory Design Conference 2020 - Participation(s) Otherwise - Volume 2 (PDC '20). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 40–44.


Participation is key to building an equitable, realistic and democratic future. Yet a lack of agency in decision making and agenda-setting is a growing phenomenon in the design of digital public services. We call this pseudo-participation by and in design. The configuration of digital artifacts and/or processes can provide an illusion of participation but lack supportive processes and affordances to allow meaningful participation to happen. This exploratory paper examines the realm of pseudo-participation in the design of public digital services through two concepts: 1) pseudo-participation by design, digital interfaces, and tools that provide the illusion of participation to the people, 2) pseudo-participation in design, processes in which those affected by the design decisions are marginalized and not given any agency. We contribute to the re-imagination of participatory design in modern societies where the role of politics has become ubiquitous and is yet to be critically scrutinized by designers.

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