preprint: Participatory Design and the “Mobile Voices” Project

vozmob-100bAt last, more on the participatory design behind the “Mobile Voices/VozMob” project in Los Angeles is available online!  (VozMob gives day laborers in LA a platform to publish news and stories using ordinary cellphones; it was the basis of the Vojo service now at MIT.)

Specifically, this article investigates “power and participation” in creating this mobile platform for social justice.  Here are the details:

Participatory Design of a Mobile Platform for Social Justice: Reflections on Power and Participation in the Mobile Voices Project

by Melissa Brough, Charlotte Lapsansky, Carmen Gonzalez, Benjamin Stokes, and François Bar

EXTENDED ABSTRACT:  Given the emphasis in Participatory Design (PD) on the democratization of technology design and empowerment of users, PD has potential to contribute to the development of communication systems for social justice. Despite the growing significance of mobile technologies, especially within marginalized communities, there are few explorations of the application of PD to mobile communication technologies.

This case study analyzes efforts at participatory design in creating the Mobile Voices (VozMob) mobile platform, which was designed with and for immigrant workers and organizers. Through the VozMob platform, participants use basic mobile phones to publish online multimedia stories about their lives and their social justice efforts.

Through collective visualization methods, observation, and interviews, this study investigates user participation in the design of VozMob and the factors that enabled or hindered meaningful participatory design. Significant differences emerged between participants’ experiences of the design process, including: whether they experienced the development of the platform as technology ‘appropriation’ or technology ‘design’; and differences in the types and degrees of power-sharing in collaborative processes.

These findings have particular import for future efforts to develop communication technology projects that seek to advance social justice through participatory design, particularly for projects that incorporate emerging mobile technologies.

Key words: participatory design, appropriation, mobile media, social justice, digital storytelling, collective analysis, communication technology, popular education, digital media and learning

Our preprint (2mb PDF) is finally available, following some delays in publishing with the International Journal of Learning and Media.  Full release is expected later this year.


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