On intellectual hubris and participatory design #PD #research #justice

2013-04-09 20.27.06 The following is an excerpt from an article draft I’m currently working on about participatory design, mobile text messaging service, and court-involved youth:

Engaging in rigorous research is taxing, and if done right, humbling. The researcher not only concerns herself with conducting ethical practices, but she also has to ensure that the work; the calculating numbers and documenting observations in field notes are properly attended to. When the researcher engages in participatory design work; however, she confronts an additional and uncomfortable layer to research logistics: intellectual hubris. Her weaknesses as researcher and an advocate are almost always revealed during the participatory design process. This revelation of ineptitude can be sobering, especially considering that the researcher spends a good portion of her adult life studying in academia; a space that imparts on scholars and researchers a misleading message that the more we do research, the better we will have an understanding about phenomenon, social organization, and cultural emergence. We come to accept the half-truth that we, indeed, are experts, and take with us into the community an aura of academic arrogance. But in order for the process to flourish, and for all participants to contribute effectively to design, the researcher must suspend an expert reasoning that brought her in to the field in the first place. When the researcher goes into the field and engages in work with community members, not just to study on behalf of them, but also with them, she begins to realize that expertise is at its best when scrutinized, distrusted at first, and continually refined by the community she wishes to serve through design.