Design for the ingenuity of ageing: new roles of designers in democratic innovation

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Inspired by concepts from the Participatory Design discourse such as the idea of design process as Things (Ehn 2008 and Binder et al 2011) and the concept of agonistic democracy (Bjorgvinsson et al, 2010), we have engaged a community of over 7000 retired academics who are actively ageing on their university campus in China through a variety of methods since 2011. We call this a reflexive ethnographic study with these ingenious older people and it focuses on how they designed their lives, the Ingenuity of Ageing. A research team composed of design researchers and a sociologist; we have investigated how designers accomplish infrastructuring and the mobilisation of participation in design. From our intensive interaction with this ingenious group, we found important new roles for designers as triggers/activists. Regarding the ways of deliberating people’s value in design processes, we employed Ricoeur’s ideas of utopia and ideology as the key concept guiding the design of our ongoing experiment, the Scientist Study. This study engages a community of retired scientists who are actively exploring possibilities in their third age, on their university campus in China. After building trust based on a one-year engagement, we have revisited the situation to refine how participation should work with the critical task of designers, i.e. transfer people’s ingenuity into insights for democratic innovation that could improve lives for our future selves.

Source Publication

Social Frontiers conference, NESTA, 14-15 Nov 2013, Shoreditch, London, UK

This document is currently not available here.