ID - Identity
BK- Brooklyn
PD - Participatory Design

Combined as a project/analysis, I was able to string these concepts together through a series of reserach, field work, and design that led into a deep investigation of participatory design and the creative generative process when one reflects upon their city's identity. 

My Masters thesis, Navigating Participatory Design through the Cultural Identity Design Project: idBrooklyn, is both an analysis of participatory design, and project/case study of the cultural branding project idBrooklyn. idBrooklyn is a graphic design project seeking to visualize Brooklyn's identity through a series of workshops engaging the participatory design process. In a broader sense, this large scale creative generative process incorporates a sense of place-making and discovery about where one belongs. While Navigating explores contemporary theoretical arguments in participation and professionalism, participatory in technology, and participation and social consciousness; through idBrooklyn, Navigating highlights various methods, field work, co-learning, roles of hierarchy, compromises, and tensions in remaining both a professional practitioner and participatory designer.

I have provided some excerpts from the text below ; )
INTRODUCTION: Participatory Design and idBrooklyn What is Participatory Design?

Participatory design (PD) is a design process that has multifarious uses that have been applied in architecture, product design, graphic design and design and technology. The entire PD process has various descriptions and definitions, and degrees of context. PD is a broad, yet helpful provision of design guidelines that are not determined by the design discipline or project. Instead, it is determined by its leveling of power relations between the designer(s) and those
affected by the design, (or in the case of the workplace, between employees and bosses.)1 PD has been adapted and called by different terminology by practitioners in different fields since it’s origin in Scandinavia 1970, yet the most catholic definition of participatory design comes from expert Elizabeth Sanders: “the active and direct involvement of all product stakeholders in and throughout the design process.”2 ‘Stakeholders’ refers to any individual affected by the design outcome, whether that be a designed artifact, product, system or entity.
This includes designers, non-designers; experts and non-experts; or professionals or non-professionals.
According to Sanders, the PD process begins with what Sanders calls the “fuzzy front end”3 (see figure 1.1) which includes a series of inquiries, and “investigation” about the design criteria. It is referred to as the ‘fuzzy front end,’because the initial brainstorming phase about the topic, cause or issue is unclear and chaotic. One example of this might be designing for ‘social entrepreneurship,’ a subject in a learning participatory design course by Plus Acumen.4
Before any focus is made, the designer would have to spend a long time researching and ‘discovering’ with social entrepreneur definitions, history, contemporary writings on social entrepreneurs, perhaps the collision of economies, culture and speaking with individuals that consider themselves social entrepreneurs. When the ‘fuzzy front end’ begins to clear, this is followed by a momentum of understanding and pairing down of ideas, to an agreeable concept, which evolves into a working prototype, which eventually makes way into a designed outcome. This process is meant to encourage a “mutual learning between multiple participants in collective “reflection-in-action.”5 In other words, participatory designers are entitled to ask questions, make observations and share knowledge and dialogue that result in a co-learning scenario. Consequently, the applied PD practice is constantly re-shaping and re-adapting based on the information and knowledge created by mutual learning. Because any stakeholder can be involved in shaping the design process, PD “contests top-down decision making,” allowing participants construct and negotiate the design.6   Participatory design is a useful tool that shapes not only the design but also relationships between stakeholders.
1 Jacob Burr and Henry Larson. “The quality of Conversations in Participatory Innovation,” CoDesign Journal. vol. 6, issue 3 (2010): 122, accessed September 2013,   2 Elizabeth Sanders and Pieter Jan Stappers. “Co-Creation and the New Landscapes of Design.” CoDesign, International Journal
of Cocreation in Design and Arts. vol. 4, issue 1, March (2008): 1, accessed September 2013,
3 Ibid, 2.
The Tension between Participation and Professionalism
While participatory design seeks to create unity between professional and non- professional, it also raises an ideological conflict. During the conference for Design Participation: Proceedings of the Design Research Society's Conference Manchester, September 1971, practitioners were seeking validation for participatory design, but that validation was equally met with skepticism. Nigel Cross provides skepticism in a faux "social conscience" motivation behind participatory design:
Why do we want 'the people' - that convenient abstraction - to participate in the processes of design, whether it be at the commodity level or the community level? In other words, not to put too fine an edge on it, what's in it for us? Right, so some of us are putting our social consciences to work. We believe, for social, political, religious reasons, that these things should be done. On the other hand, it is not too difficult to see that, in some places and at certain times over the last six years, the motivation of professionals to stir up the populace into participatory action has a been a way of finding allies for our own private inter-professional guerrilla wars.41
To contextualize, Cross was speaking of certain political climates, i.e., the politics of Ralph Nader, that were very populous oriented and despised by largercorporations i.e. Koch Brother’s industries.42 Cross point carries over into contemporary times, (where politics have not changed all the much) and individuals or groups often employ ‘participatory action’ for their own agenda. In essence, there is a danger in chance of exploiting participation or using it as leverage for personal gain. In addition, there is the idea that perhaps designers are sticking their noses where they don’t belong, and should quit subscribing to the idea people are misfortunate by not being included in a designer’s design. Rather, it is the designer that is seeking help for their ‘agenda’ or because they alone are
incapable of an innovation process. Cross raises the question, "what's in it for us?” which is a resounding question that practitioners often attempt to answer. Yet, in the case of idBrooklyn and other Participatory Design, practitioners should feel the pressure to be answering "what's in it for them?" The designer rarely holds a mirror up to themselves and asks what their influence or consequence might be on the nature of their work. Altogether, are the professional's motives really able to
be trusted?43

41 Nigel Cross “Here Comes Everyman” in Design Participation: Proceedings of the Design Research Society's Conference, ed. Nigel Cross (Academy Editions Ltd, a division of John Wiley & Sons Ltd., December 1972), 16.
42 Chad Beck, Adam Bolt, Alex Gibney, Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream, Documentary, Alex Gibney (BBC: 2012).
Technology and Participation

More than forty years later, the gap between the ‘non professional’ and ‘professional’ has only widened. The recent trends of technology, and the popularity of hacking of or furthering “productive freedom”44 of software and databases have complicated this even further. In this example of PD, the hacking of designed software, programs, projects, has encouraged individuals to go their own route while re-creating and/or creating on top of another's work. In this context, PD has become a bottomless hole of data where the amount of participating is constant. With online capabilities, people have the ability to participate across the world with one another. This poses awkwardness between the past, present, and future of design. In PD projects, where designers and non- designers are designing alongside each other, the traditional categorization of "professional" and "layperson" or "non-professional" is challenged.
ShanedaBikeJack, gave us a powerful background story about his days as a BK badboy: 
“I come from the background of athletics so I’m a big Brooklyn jock. I played the games, I been all-American, and then I was re-inventing myself, at a stage in my life-I was too way too spoiled to get a job. To work for a paycheck and clock something. But I needed something in my life that I could earn ‘my way,’ like Sinatra, ”My Way”- you know what I’m saying? I basically got connected with these guys at the Brooklyn flea. And they’re very first week, and we made an agreement, with a handshake that’s lasted for the last six years. And I, going from the entertainment circuit and basketball and athletics and signing autographs, I winding up renting the most space at the #1 flea market in the world.  We get 6000 people a day. I play my music as loud as I want,  and that’s the Brooklyn story. My friends that come by here who I grew up with are like, ‘wow’ because Brooklyn went through a whole re-inventing itself from the past, this used to be land of the living dead- this was crack head alley!  All of this over here, (pointing to the waterfront strip on Kent street.) if you were walking here at a certain time of night you may catch a bullet, or get stabbed. So for me to come from this and be a part of the whole Renaissance of Brooklyn, it’s some different cultures and races and youth from other parts of the country coming to live out their dreams. And basically, all of these people, these are the next generation of movers and shakers and makers- they’re coming here everyday. They’re riding my bike, , they’re buying records from me and it keeps me in the ‘post’ of  it. At a point, I was so in the post, [based on] who I am and what I’ve done, and then I got disconnected, and then I got re-embedded into the ‘post.’ So, my favorite story is how I’m the same, but different. I’m just as popular just as known, but in a whole other demographics of Brooklyn badass. And that’s what it is.
..everybody’s so caught up with you know New York, Brooklyn, Queens, it makes you do your own thing. That is the thing. You know when they say go to Rome, and do as the Romans do you know what I’m saying? When you come to Brooklyn, it’s all about being yourself, being original, making a name or a mark for yourself. And so originality is, what it is. In your clothing, in your style in your talk, in the club you go to, and the woman you have or the man you deal with, it’s all about flavor. That’s the best way: Brooklyn flavor. And the weed is the best here too.”
Lenny, a participant from Brownsville, wrote a poem in relfection upon his Brooklyn identity.
Children from Open Source Gallery Workshop draw "What Brooklyn Means to Them."
High Schoolers engage in desgining "What Brooklyn Means to Them."
Drawings and designs from children at the Brooklyn's Children's Museum
Our (myself and imagenHB’s) methods for developing a participatory structure for idBrooklyn will borrow from what Ije Nwokorie of Wolff Olins calls “flexible,8” meaning that the design or idea set in place by the designers allows and invites participants to configure the criteria under which they participate. This flexibility was applied to the thirteen participatory design workshops. We have crafted a simple prompt: "Brooklyn to me is…" that we believe to be neutral enough for positive or negative responses, and able to be translated in different forms of media. The research methods used in collecting the expressions of idBrooklyn through drawings, writing, conversational interviews will be ethnographic. Participants are given an explanation of the project, and then asked "Brooklyn to me is...." They are assured that this can be any variation of knowledge, story, or information. Participants can draw, converse, or be interviewed with designers on camera. In every case, participants are encouraged to take on these design roles in shaping Brooklyn’s identity. Although not all stakeholders of Brooklyn will be active participants in this project, we encourage the participating stakeholders to take an active role in shaping the methods and flexible structure of the workshops. Our methods intend to help people consider and share a dialogue, story, or issue that relates to their identity as a ‘Brooklynite.’ This information is gathered through a series of workshops at community locations and landmarks within Brooklyn that feature frameworks for harvesting stories, narratives, history, knowledge, and information about Brooklyn. All of idBrooklyn is filmed and the designs archived.
8 Ije Nwokerie, interview in Participate: Designing with User-Generated Content. (Princeton Architectural Press, 2011,) 97.
Heuristic model and Reflection in Action methodology

Throughout this participatory design process, the most useful model for PD was the notion of heuristics and reflection in action. An emphasis on the “fuzzy front end” allows for these models to be enacted. As defined by Bryan Lawson: “Heuristic strategies do not so much rely upon theoretical first principles as on experience and rules of thumb…This rule of thumb provides a good model of the heuristic strategy so commonly employed by designers. A rough idea is
quickly developed for the most significant elements of the solution which can then be checked by more precise methods and adjusted as necessary”82 This is also in combination with empirical knowledge, and reflection in action. In heuristics, the designer seeks out, or “follows their nose”83 based on observation and environment. It is along these lines, when a designer begins to become part of the scene, begins co-learning, role challenging, and encountering successes and challenges. All of this becomes educational, and the designer holds knowledge for the next steps.
81 Alastair Fuad-Luke Design Activism: Beautiful Strangeness for a Sustainable World, (Earthscan, 2009), 150.
82 Bryan Lawson, How Designers Think, (Routledge:2005), 184
83 Ibid., 198
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