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Friday, June 9 • 1:50pm - 2:10pm
Who you gonna call? Challenges to participatory design methods

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This research seeks to understand the everyday experiences of informal waste collectors and recyclers in Sydney, Australia and raise greater awareness about their activities. Existing discourse on informal waste collection has framed the activity as a pragmatic response to unemployment and economic marginalisation, particularly in developing nations such as Brazil, Egypt and India where the practice is more prevalent. Comparatively, informal waste collection remains an under researched activity in Australia. No formal organisation or authority currently exists that provides services and support to the community of informal waste collectors in metropolitan areas such as Sydney. As an unsupported group, individuals who engage in informal waste collection can be considered structurally disadvantaged and are required to individually navigate issues such as health, safety, ownership and legality, and stigmatisation while conducting waste collection. This research is situated in the field of design activism and employs cultural probes to better understand the experiences and desires of informal waste collectors. Cultural probes invite participants to complete a series of creative, open-ended activities and the insights drawn from their responses are used to inform the iterative design research process. With the objective of designing tangible forms of assistance that enable waste collection with greater safety and confidence I frame the research as a collaboration with diverse participants and communities, thus meeting an ethical imperative that mobilises the shift in design from authorship towards cocreation. This paper considers the practicality and feasibility of participation when it comes to social design practice with marginalised communities by reflecting on the difficulties I have encountered in recruiting participants to the research. I locate the research at the intersection of debates in design activism, participatory design, urban planning and social innovation and the work and writing of experts in design research including Sasha Costanza-Chock and Joachim Halse, whose contributions surrounding ethical participatory practices and community engagement in waste management respectively are used to orient the analysis. Ultimately, the paper presents strategies I have implemented to supplement the challenges of participation and advocates for greater nuance in future discourse around the merits, strengths and limitations of this approach in certain parts of the world.


Jack Grant

Mr, University of New South Wales

Friday June 9, 2023 1:50pm - 2:10pm EDT
ARC E-13