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Power of peripheral designers: how users learn to design
Conferences & Talks

4th International Conference on Design Science Research in Information Systems and Technology (DESRIST 2009)

7 May 2009 - 8 May 2009
Malvern, Pennsylvania, USA



In information system development, end-users often participate in design and in many cases learn to design their own system. Design, however, requires a distinct approach that users typically are not familiar with. The unique position in which users find themselves makes users’ learning even more complicated: They have no interest in designing and becoming designers. To understand how users learn to design despite such difficulties, longitudinal ethnography was conducted in an accounting system development project. The analysis reveals how a user progressively acquired the design capability in two months. In the beginning, the user treated the problem as given and rejected design proposed by designers that did not solve the given problems. The user then gradually learned the details of the system and started to explore various configurations of features; however, this design focused on parts, with the problem remaining fixed. The user finally demonstrated her design capability by constructing creative designs both in parts and on the whole. Drawing on situated learning theory, the notion of the peripheral designer is used to illustrate this type of design practice. The user became a peripheral designer in that she could design in a competent but peripheral manner without becoming a full designer. Power relationships posed challenges to this learning. The notion of the peripheral designer clarifies what designing is, beyond active participation in discussion and configuration of parts, and delineates a realistic picture of how a user learns to design in the real world.


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