Utopias of participation: Feminism, design, and the futures

Shaowen Bardzell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


This essay addresses the question of how participatory design (PD) researchers and practitioners can pursue commitments to social justice and democracy while retaining commitments to reflective practice, the voices of the marginal, and design experiments “in the small.” I argue that contemporary feminist utopianism has, on its own terms, confronted similar issues, and I observe that it and PD pursue similar agendas, but with complementary strengths. I thus propose a cooperative engagement between feminist utopianism and PD at the levels of theory, methodology, and on-the-ground practice. I offer an analysis of a case—an urban renewal project in Taipei, Taiwan—as a means of exploring what such a cooperative engagement might entail. I argue that feminist utopianism and PD have complementary strengths that could be united to develop and to propose alternative futures that reflect democratic values and procedures, emerging technologies and infrastructures as design materials, a commitment to marginalized voices (and the bodies that speak them), and an ambitious, even literary, imagination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6
JournalACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Human-Computer Interaction


Dive into the research topics of 'Utopias of participation: Feminism, design, and the futures'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this