Spinuzzi, C. 2002. A Scandinavian challenge, a US response: methodological assumptions in Scandinavian and US prototyping approaches. In Proceedings of the 20th annual international conference on Computer documentation SIGDOC’02, ACM, October 20-23, 2002, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

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Spinuzzi introduces a philosophical question about the goal for the design. The question is based on historical events starting from Ehn’s UTOPIA project, leading to CARD and PICTIVE projects, and finally ending to Beyer and Holtzblatt’s contextual design. In short, the Scandinavian challenge is to find a method for having democracy in the automation system design. According to Spinuzzi, the original idea that Nygaard and Ehn had was to respect the knowledge and skills the workers have. Ehn’s team ended up using mock-ups to help the workers to design systems for their use.

This type of participatory design ended up to USA, where it was developed further, and especially the contextual design got lot of recognition in the industry. Nevertheless, Spinuzzi claims that the ideology has also changed during the evolution. Where UTOPIA was focusing on enhancing the user’s work practices the contextual design seems to focus more on enhancing the productivity of the organization. The democratic ideology behind the UTOPIA project has changed into more capitalist form. It is worth of noting that Spinuzzi also points out that the Scandinavia has taken the same road.

Overall, the article is pretty easy to read and gives a compact package about history of prototypes and participatory design. References to Marxism seem bit weird at the beginning but Spinuzzi ties up the article to rather relevant point. I think it is worth of considering that to what purpose is the design done. Are we designing for the users themselves or for the organization where users work?

Posted by Sampo Teräs

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