The Fragility of Human-Centred Design

Marc_steen

In his PhD thesis “The Fragility of Human-Centred Design” Marc Steen argues that the principles of HCD can appear simple, but that numerous hidden assumptions and potential pitfalls exist in practice. Through a review of HCD approaches Steen argues that there are two major tensions in HCD: – the tension which occurs between the roles and agency of researchers/designers and the roles and agency of users; – the tension which occurs between a concern for understanding current situations, a research orientation, versus a concern for envisioning alternative future situations, a design orientation. Steen’s conclusions include the suggestion that HCD can be understood as a socio-cultural process in which researchers and designers, together with users, participate in an uncertain, chaotic and ‘interpretive’ process in which people create and negotiate meanings, and that in this way they create innovations. Steen’s conclusions also include the suggestion that HCD can be understood as a political process, in which people try to exert influence on the project. His main finding, however, is that HCD is a fragile process, thus that there is a need to become more aware of, and better articulate, the ethical qualities of HCD, i.e., how the practitioners move between other and self, and between openness and closure.

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