Meta-design: Expanding Boundaries and Redistributing Control in Design

  • Gerhard Fischer
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 4662)


Meta-design is an emerging conceptual framework aimed at defining and creating socio-technical environments as living entities. It extends existing design methodologies focused on the development of a system at design time by allowing users to become co-designers at use time. Meta-design is grounded in the basic assumption that future uses and problems cannot be completely anticipated at design time, when a system is developed. Users, at use time, will discover mismatches between their needs and the support that an existing system can provide for them. Meta-design extends boundaries by supporting users as active contributors who can transcend the functionality and content of existing systems. By facilitating these possibilities, control is distributed among all stakeholders in the design process.

This paper characterizes different design methodologies and identifies the unique challenges and opportunities for meta-design. It illustrates this approach with two examples: (a) Web2Gether (enriching the organizational practices and community building of assistive technology teachers), and (b) the Memory Aiding Prompting System (MAPS) (addressing the needs of people with cognitive disabilities and their caregivers). Assessments of our developments are used to identify some future implications and challenges for meta-design and its role in socially responsible design.


design design methodologies meta-design socio-technical environments boundaries control seeding / evolutionary growth / reseeding model Web2Gether Memory Aiding Prompting System (MAPS) application areas for meta-design socially responsible design 


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Copyright information

© IFIP International Federation for Information Processing 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gerhard Fischer
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Lifelong Learning and Design, University of Colorado, BoulderUSA

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