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Title: Participatory design with young people : exploring the experiential, relational and contextual dimensions of participation
Author: McAra, Marianne
ISNI:       0000 0004 6353 3402
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: Glasgow School of Art
Date of Award: 2017
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Within the field of Participatory Design, whilst there is rich debate on the participation of children, there lacks an explicit knowledge-base focused on the specific participation of young people in the teenage years. There is a need for a more in-depth and person-centred understanding of how young people participate in and can be transformed by Participatory Design. In this practice-based PhD I apply my Participatory Design practice in a research context and build upon my interests of empowering young people in an adult-centric society through design. In this explorative study, I ask: how can a Participatory Design process engage young people and lead to an understanding of their sense of agency? To answer this, I draw on evidence from my fieldwork where I collaborated with a group of fifteen young people over the course of two years. Implementing a five-phase approach, presented as a single case study, I was able to incrementally build trust and rapport with the group. By transporting the filmmaking technique of direct animation into a Participatory Design context, the young people explored and expressed their experiences of education through experimental and abstract imagery and narrating their films with song lyrics. Here I was able to learn about their localised social and educational practices, motivations, and ambitions – observing what I term agency-in-action. My four contributions to knowledge are based on my understanding and experience of the experiential, relational, and contextual dimensions of participation. Through examining the process of participation, I suggest Participatory Design practitioners develop flexible approaches that support young people to collaborate in both an independent and collective capacity, as well as seek out opportunities to bond with participants to build a relationship based on trust. I also propose a need for practitioners to critically engage with the role of context and the impact localised discourse can have on participation. In seeking to protect the participants’ anonymity whilst at the same time exploring the situational, interactional, and tacit aspects of participation, I developed a novel approach to visually documenting, reflecting, and reporting the findings. I constructed a 3D scale model box of the fieldwork setting and, using my field notes, recreated and re-lived significant and meaningful moments; presenting these as the accompanying Portfolio of Practice. These contributions provide the field with both theoretical and methodological insights that are more relevant to the teenage years. My aspiration is that the findings and approaches developed in this study will be harnessed by, give confidence to, and inspire other Participatory Design practitioners by candidly depicting the journey the young people and I went on, the relationship that developed, the challenges I had to negotiate, and the transformative impact of participation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available