Design Research

Citizen-government interaction


Online tools for citizen participation are rarely successful in engaging young citizens, specially when these tools are government-based. An under explored aspect is the impact of design, not only as discipline occupied solely with the creation of participation platforms, but as a discipline that can support finding contextual solutions for this problem through a holistic analysis that includes communication processes and user-centered research and development. From the perspective of participatory culture and through design research, young citizens (18-24 years old) from Cologne, Germany, participated in cultural probes and generative sessions, where they expressed their current perception of local politicians and created a future tool for communication with the local government. Self-expression through objects and drawings was encouraged as a form of finding out deep motivations that are hard to be verbalized. As a result of this research there are three outcomes. The first is the generation of nine conceptual directives to be taken into account when designing for youth participation (envisioning futures, visualizing the invisible, form as the message, emancipatory design, affective politics, ‘make’ strategy, widening the spectrum of access, creating reference and consistency, and contextual relevance). The second outcome is a description of a design process for the creation of a government-based citizen consultation, pointing out how design can assist this process. The third are two conceptual outline proposals: one for creating a sustainable engagement strategy, and the other is an aggregative collaboration platform, with elements that can maintain engagement of young citizens. As an implication of this research, online interaction between citizens and governments should take into consideration the affective way citizens deal with political issues, and design research should be applied to create communication processes that are valuable for all stakeholders, and sensitive to the way citizens are willing to participate. 

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