Victoria Payton

Traces of design and occupation: towards participatory spaces and a taxonomy of participatory-enabling design processes.

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Participation is everywhere, it is a key current trope within fields ranging from art to wellbeing to political policy-making. Wherever we turn we are being asked to step up, take control, give our views and get involved. But where are these actions occurring, and how can we support, and protect, this activity?  

How can spaces for participation, be they cafes, community halls or meeting rooms, can be designed to actively invite and encourage participation and agency through their physical configuration. Building on my previous research around the rules and structures that guide participation I am testing how people can be encouraged to step over the liminal space between observation and active participation. Previously I investigated five key areas:

– Invitation: offer, explanation and contract: an advance invitation which included information showing that the ‘host’ had been involved in the same action

– Contribution: input into construction of performance: an input into the experience, even if this input is not visible discreetly;

– Physical sign of performance: a signifier of arrival or connection: a physical identifier of location;

– Awareness of a wider community: engaged in the same experience: the awareness of a wider community, not necessarily visible but in the form of either physical or textual evidence;

– Reflexive action: a means of ownership, private or public: and the knowledge that after the action there will be an expectation of providing public reflective feedback.

– A complex interplay of these items emerged as supportive of participation.

– Now these elements, tested previously in the area of participative public art, are to be transposed, evolved, then tested in live projects to examine how their inclusion in the creation of designed spaces changes the quality of the participation within them. To see if the spaces we create as designers can provide a mutable, responsive and supportive role in fostering participation and agency.

In those places, could you join in? Put up your hand? Step forward? Sign up?

 Dr. Lynn-Sayers McHattie, Dr. Maddy Sclater.

Contact: [email protected]

Image credit: Victoria Payton