Participatory Design for Cultural Representation: A Cultural Transparency Perspective

  • Amalia G. Sabiescu
  • Nemanja Memarovic
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 8120)


Participatory design approaches are being increasingly employed for designing digital artefacts and information systems with and for local communities. These cases require a reconceptualization of PD processes to account for widened knowledge gaps between designers and community members, and new patterns of community-defined design goals. In this paper we provide a perspective on the design process that will help designers to better plan their involvement in participatory projects with local communities. Our analytical stance resides on an interpretation of Étienne Wenger’s theory of cultural transparency. Participatory design is analysed as an iterative process of decoding and encoding that involves users/local people and designers having as outcome understanding (through decoding) and representations (through encoding). Cultural transparency, achieved when the two agents advanced sufficient understanding on the other’s practices, is the landmark for effective design. The paper argues for the importance of working towards attainment of cultural transparency in community-based projects, in particular when the goal is to create culturally representative artefacts. Examples of activities and suggestions for advancing cultural transparency in these contexts are provided.


participatory design cultural transparency cross-cultural design local communities cultural representation 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amalia G. Sabiescu
    • 1
  • Nemanja Memarovic
    • 2
  1. 1.New Media in Education Laboratory, Faculty of Communication SciencesUniversità della Svizzera italianaLuganoSwitzerland
  2. 2.Faculty of InformaticsUniversità della Svizzera italianaLuganoSwitzerland

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