Workshop in brief

To be part of the 14th Participatory Design Conference to be held in Aarhus (Denmark) from 15 to 19 of Agoust 2016

  • Organised by: Ineke Buskens (ineke(at)
  • Duration: Half Day
  • Registration: First come- first served basis (25 participants max)
  • To register: Visit the PDC2016 registration page

Human beings not only adapt to the concepts, practices, beliefs and norms that preserve cultural hegemony: with their own doing, acting, knowing, relating, being and becoming, they live, embody, identify with and defend the structures that maintain power imbalance and discrimination. Understanding how ‘natural’ it is for discriminated people to identify with the cultural hegemony that disadvantages them whilst at the same time fervently aspire to a more empowered reality, is important knowledge for participatory design that is grounded in emancipatory intentions. However, without know-how such knowledge remains impotent: participatory design scholars engaging in emancipatory work, need to be able to facilitate the processes of personal and social change that participatory design will set in motion. Such processes will not be smooth trajectories and the mainstream concept of a homogenous and coherent self will not be helpful in understanding the complexities that will present themselves.

In this workshop, a self-concept will be introduced that can be used to make sense of the often contradictory thoughts, emotions, aspirations and anxieties that personal and social change brings up. Participants will apply this concept of self-in-change to a personal journey of their own choice, and in dialogue with partners explore how this know-how can enhance their personal process management style.

Workshop Format

Purpose. The purpose of this workshop is to offer participants a playful and engaging tutorial with hands-on experience how to integrate a self-concept in participatory processes, and the opportunity to reflect on their experiences theoretically.

Format. There are 4 modules:

1) At the onset of the workshop the participants will share their intentions regarding their own participation in and co-creation of this workshop; the kind of self-concept they have been using, implicitly or explicitly in their own work so far; their reflections on how this particular self-concept may have impacted on processes and products of participatory design.

2) After this introductory group sharing, the facilitator will explain the self-concept, which she has been working with for the last 20 years in various fora, for various purposes and in various countries.

3) The participants will then apply this self-concept to a purpose of personal or social change of their own choice, and afterwards reflect on this experience in a one on one interview with a partner.

4) To conclude the workshop, a group discussion will focus on the following questions: a) would the praxis of participatory design be improved when understandings of the self would be explicitly integrated? b) If so, how would such a methodological routine be designed?

Background of the Workshop

The human selves, who take part in participatory processes such as design, research and intervention, often remain unacknowledged, unnamed and unknown in all their complexity and fluidity. This may not necessarily be experienced as problematic; actors may be (too) focused on the design process and products to care very much about who and what they are; they may feel comfortable with the personal and social changes that participatory processes set in motion; they may relish the new modalities of being, thinking, doing, acting, relating and knowing which the newly co-created realities offer without feeling the need to reflect in-depth on who they are becoming.

Participatory processes can however also create intra- and inter personal tension and even conflict. The selves that may emerge over a project’s time-line may be very different from and even in conflict with the selves that started the project. These future selves, who emerge in alignment with the project purpose and its new as yet un-lived ontologies and social imaginaries, were not the ‘old’ selves that actually prompted the project’s initiation. Fundamental change indicates that the project was successful in establishing a reality that was not there before. But it also means that intra- and interpersonal conflicts between those selves that are still partly embedded in the ‘old’ status quo and embody its values, thoughts and emotions, and those selves that are partly already living, expressing, acting, knowing the new, intended reality, need to be managed. The concept of the self, which will be introduced in this workshop, will facilitate more in-depth understanding of these dynamics, which will enable process participation and management to be more human-centered, inclusive and empowering.


Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 16.03.21The particular self-concept that is the focus of this workshop is grounded in the acknowledgment of intentional human agency and at the same time, makes visible the power of internal and external barriers to personal and social change. The self is portrayed as multi-layered, heterogeneous and capable of fluid and creative agency [1]. Theoretically this understanding of the self endeavors to stride across many disciplinary boundaries and the various dimensions and parts of this self-concept resonate with reflections by social theoreticians and feminist philosophers [2], psychologists [3], educationalists [4]. The concept of intentional agency is described as conation [4] purposeful action and will power, intent and intentional agency [1]. In the field of Gender and ICT it is elaborated on as researcher intentionality and is linked to a distinction in / choice for, conforming or conformist, reforming or reformist and transforming or transformist research [1]. In this conceptualization of the self, all acts may be agentic acts and hence the notions of restricted agency or agency deprivation do not have a place in this model.


The graphic representation of this self-concept, Personal Trajectory Map 2, makes the capacity for creative and relational agency visible. There are 5 parts to this self: 1) The centre represents unconscious programmes and habits; 2) Circumfering the centre is a first ring, named the ‘iron ring of safety and security’, which represents the part of the self where a sense of identity, of beliefs and values are held. 3) The second ring represents the part of the self that knows, functions in and responds to one socio-cultural environment, with its power relations, institutions, rules, regulations and structures. 4) The dreams are representations of the envisioned intended personal and social states (and future selves) that resonate with the project purpose. 5) When intent is understood, as the vectored will that embodies itself as any of the other four dimensions of the self, intent can be understood speak as eliding with dreams, identity, environment, or unconscious programmes and habits. Intent and intentional agency are understood as actively embodied when the self acts, thinks, relates and emotes in direct alignment with the dream but also when it aligns itself with the emotions, thoughts, values and projects of the status quo in terms of identity and environment. Strengthening identity and known, culturally accepted values, projects and thoughts is also exercising agency. Endorsing the status quo and hence resisting personal and social change is just as much an agentic act as challenging or transforming it. When the will as focused intent is not consciously aligned with, embodied as any of the other three knowable (or known) aspects of self, the vectored will and thus one’s intent can elide with the reservoir of unconscious fears and desires. This may evoke anxiety and a sense of loss of control of oneself and ones participation. Such anxiety may prompt halting the processes underway, when it is not understood and accepted. The possibility to make selves-in-motion visible as potential trajectories, will enable participants to stay in control of their participation and aligned with their intentionality for their participation.


  • (1) Buskens, I. 2014. Research Methodology for personal and social transformation: purpose- aligned action research, intentional agency and dialogue, in I. Buskens and A. Webb (eds.), Women and ICT in Africa and the Middle East: Changing Selves, Changing Societies, Zed Books / IDRC, London, pp. 275-291.
  • (2) Willett, C., Anderson, E., and Meyers, D. 2015. Feminist Perspectives on the Self, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL <;.
  • (3) Hermans, H.J.M. 2015. Dialogical Self in a Complex World: The Need for Bridging Theories, in Europe’s Journal of Psychology, 2015, Vol. 11(1), 1–4, doi:10.5964/ejop.v11i1.917
  • (4) Huitt, W. and S. Cain 2005. An overview of the conative domain, Educational Psychology, accessed 14 October 2013.
  • (5) Markus, H. and Nurius, P. 1986. Possible Selves, American Psychologist, 41(9): 954-69.

To register: Visit the PDC2016 registration page


Ineke Buskens is a cultural anthropologist, who is currently based at the United Nations University Institute on Computing and Society in Macau, SAR China. Ineke has published on qualitative and emancipatory research methodology, women’s health, Gender and ICT4D and Open Development. Born in the Netherlands, her Doctoranda degree (Drs.) is from Leiden University, where she co-designed and co-facilitated the first Dutch Women’s Studies ‘doctoraal specialisatie’ in 1978. After having been Head of the Centre for Research Methodology of the Human Sciences Research Council in South Africa for five years, Ineke started her own consultancy Research for the Future and worked as an independent research, facilitation and gender consultant in Africa and beyond.

Ineke has led several transnational, interdisciplinary and multi-method research projects, of which the GRACE Research Network, involving 28 teams in 18 countries in Africa and the Middle East, has been the latest. GRACE completed 35 projects successfully and Ineke is the main editor of its two books (