Paula Acevedo, Ana I Mora-Urda, Pilar Montero | European Journal of Public Health
The relationship between democracy and design has been the topic of significant discussion in the design community. It is also at the core of participatory design that relies on the principle of genuine participation. According to this, users are not mere informants but legitimate participants in the design process. A great deal of participatory design, however, is driven by instrumental logics rather than participatory and democratic principles. In analysing these power relations, science and technology studies (STS) provides the starting point to introduce the concepts of ‘engineering an atmosphere’ (i.e. the process) and ‘engineered atmosphere’ (i.e. the outcome). These concepts problematise the principles and modes of participatory design, highlighting the tensions between economic and social agendas and top-down and bottom-up interactions. This problematic can be shown in the way that new teachnologies are targeted at older populations, necessitating an interrogation of the processes underpirnning the design and development of technological products and devices. It is important to reflect on who is included and who is excluded from technological design and innovation, which is always, and necessarily so, a fluid process.