The Life & Mind Seminar Network

Agency Sensitive Design

Posted in General by Baki Kocaballi on February 23, 2011

Dear Life and Mind bloggers,

I’m a PhD candidate at Sydney University. Tom Froese kindly invited me to join into this forum. I follow and enjoy the discussions in the forum. I read a paper by Tom and I was inspired by his work on Enactive Torch and followed a similar approach to develop my workshop and built a wearable version of Enactive Torch called Enactive Coupler. You may see a recent paper titled “enabling new forms of agency using wearable environments” using enactive coupler here:

Later, I discovered the works of other members of this blog and found them very useful and valuable for my research as well. Extended and relational approaches to cognition and agency are core components of my research too. My research aims to understand the relation between design process and agency. I aim to understand and explore what designing for agency can be or mean and how we can design for agency.  My approach is based on an interactional or relational conception of agency and benefits from various other approaches, theories and fields such as ANT, feminist STS, post-phenomenology and distributed and extended cognition. I follow a research-through-design approach to understand the different conditions and mutual influence of design and agency. This mutual relation/shaping of agency and design in fact is very similar to the relation between structure and agency in structuration. I aim to make visible these mutual relations and find some ways of developing some sensitivities in design process to promote agency and increase designers’/researchers’ awareness of agency related aspects in design. I call this approach Agency Sensitive Design (ASD), which has a broader view of design including both production and use of technologies. According to this extended conception, design process does not stop after technology production but continues in the sites of technology use. Thus, users continue to design the given technology by the activities of (re-)assembling, (re-)configuring and tuning.  Parallel to this, ASD aims to tune design process in order to support tuning/design in use. Some guiding research questions are:

. What does designing for relational agency mean?

. How can we promote relational agency?

. How can we make design process more sensitive to different forms of agency?

. How can we support emergent and improvised actions?

So far I’ve conducted two workshops, where I tried to configure/control agency, which was in fact, I realized, not possible or perhaps not needed. Thus, I decided that it could be better to configure for agency rather than trying to configure agency and came up with the idea of designing for agency. Then I made a further literature survey and derived some meta-qualities that can facilitate agency-sensitive practices in design process. These six meta-qualities which may facilitate agency-sensitive practices are:

– Visibility/accessibility

– Multiplicity

– Relationality

– Accountability

– Duality

– Configurability

You may see short explanations for these qualities/ design lenses here:

In the next stage, I will conduct two more participatory workshops but this time I will be looking for six meta-qualities, how they can be embodied or negotiated in design process by designers and users in the role of co-designers.

I hope my research topic is not too far away from the themes discussed in this forum.

Thank you

Best regards,

Baki Kocaballi


2 Responses

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  1. Ezequiel said, on February 26, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    Hi Baki,

    Thank you for your post! Definitely lots of interesting stuff and lots of connections to many of the topics that have been discussed here.

    Do you by any chance have a pre-print of your paper that you could make available? I don’t think I have the right subscription to download it from the link in your post.


  2. Baki Kocaballi said, on March 1, 2011 at 3:03 am

    Hi Ezequiel,

    I’m sorry for the inaccessible link. Here is a basically the same draft version of the paper:

    In addition, if you are interested, there is another paper which is more recent but hasn’t been published yet. It is a more theoretical paper than the first one and focuses on the relation between design and agency:

    Thank you for your interest,

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