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Makeshift users

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This chapter draws on thoughts from user-centred and participatory design and participatory art as well as ideas from practice theory, actor-network theory and material semiotics to investigate the conceptual status of users in the process of designing.

Designing is understood as a distributed process of drawing together and stabilising otherwise fluid objects, systems and interactions between many different actors.

We investigate the role of users through three case studies from the NEETs public service design, PalCom pervasive computing and ‘Running Stitch’ participatory art, chosen to illustrate a broad range of methodological approaches and applications.

The contribution of this chapter is to explore the proposition that thinking of users as make-shift and processual entities, rather than as preconstituted figures that actually exist in the ‘real’ world provides a method of integrating concepts of user, utility and users with dynamic accounts of design.