12386 CE: Infrastructuring Civic Action: Social Network Participatory Design with Youth
Organizers: Manwah Lee, Mindy Faber, Jeff McCarter
Presenters: Dawn Graham, Natalia Smirnov, and Youth Editorial Board Members, Chicago Youth Voices Network
Scholars use the term participatory politics (Cohen & Kahne 2012, Soep 2014) to describe new forms of online youth civic engagement. To what extent are these activities constrained by platforms that have been created without youth input? What if young people were empowered and supported to design a networked platform that enables them to define their own civic identities, strategies and goals? This workshop will explore how participatory design can push our thinking about infrastructuring youth civic action.
Chicago Youth Voices Network’s NUF-Said 2.0 (nuf-said.org) project engages youth in a participatory design process to develop a safe, active and sustainable online space in which youth can create, share, and discuss media, build relationships, and deepen their civic engagement. Since beginning the project, a Youth Editorial Board (YEB) comprising teens and young adults from different CYVN organizations has been the driving force for the site’s vision, culture, design, and function. As of Fall 2014, 55 youth have participated in as many as 138 hours of ongoing, iterative participatory design workshops led by design professionals, youth media organizers and learning scientists. In these workshops, youth engage in human-centered design activities, such as creating personas, use-case scenarios, and mood boards. They also develop and moderate activity on the platform as it unfolds, by facilitating user-testing sessions, monitoring discussions on featured media pieces, and creating original content.
We draw on theories of participatory design as “infrastructuring” of social relations (Star 1996, Ehn 2008, Light & Akoma, 2014) to reflect on the complex process of working together to design youth-centered networked cultures. Through cycles of asking, listening, developing, prototyping, testing, abandoning and iterating the platform, its policies and features, we move away from the emphasis on designing things (objects, tools, platforms). Instead, we acknowledge the relational work involved in infrastructuring socio-material assemblages – collectives of humans, institutions and technologies that emerge and evolve in use. We prioritize ways these collectives can be assembled to reflect ethics of care, interdependency and social justice throughout the course of many transformations.
In this workshop, we will first report on the process and lessons learned through NUF-Said’s participatory design approach, and then introduce the theoretical framework of infrastructuring that will guide us in reflecting on the opportunities and complexities of this project. For the bulk of the session, YEB members will co-lead participatory design activities sampled from their involvement with NUF-Said. Combining youth media organizing pedagogy and human-centered design methods, these activities will engage participants in mediated encounters to build reciprocity and trust, acknowledge assumptions and negotiate differences, take on users’ perspectives, critically consider cultural, commercial and peer influences, and collectively co-create temporal spaces that encourage agency, vulnerability and mutual care, all while developing artifacts to inform practical designs. Participants will be able to see how these infrastructuring practices create the necessary social foundations for youth-powered civic action, because they support groups to affectively experience the possible futures enabled by equitably designed networked collaboration.