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New Media Technologies and User Empowerment

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Edited By Jo Pierson, Enid Mante-Meijer and Eugène Loos

Recent developments in new media have led to the rise of what has become known as ‘social media’. The shift towards mass self-communication has lowered the technological thresholds for everyday users to connect and to become ‘produsers’ in media life. However, the question is to what extent users interacting in this ecosystem are empowered – and not disempowered – to express their creativity and concerns and to obtain a prominent role in new media design and innovation.

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Part 2: User Approaches in ICT Design and Development

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Part 2 - User Approaches in ICT Design and Development 84 85 Aphra Kerr, Stefano de Paoli and Cristiano Storni Constructing the Role of Users in ICT Design Introduction In much literature today, the concept of the “user” has become a point of debate, as, so the argument goes, for any information and communication technology (ICT) service or application there are a diversity of users/actors who exercise their agency in different ways. From digital artisans, to expert users, hackers, players and spectators, users can play a range of roles at different stages of the design/innovation process. Users can be disruptive and dangerous but can also be a source of value and innovation. Non-users and implicated users may also play a role in design, often indirectly (Cowan 1987). Technologies can also play a role and can be considered actors. This discussion takes us beyond simple statements about passive and active users, about diffusion and impacts, and focuses attention on different types of users, differences in power and agency between users and different contexts of use. According to Woolgar (1994), every process of innovation, design and development can be characterized as a struggle between competing conceptions of the user. Indeed different design approaches offer vastly different roles to users. “Traditional” design methodologies are based on the imagined user, direct and indirect user research and formalized models of user behaviour. Emergent design methodologies try to include users in the design process, e.g. user- centered design, participatory design, and forms of co-design and peer-to-peer...

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