A Critical Exploration of Agonistic Participatory Design

Kraff, H. (2019). A Critical Exploration of Agonistic Participatory Design. The Design Journal, 1–18. doi:10.1080/14606925.2019.1684730

Gothenburg Kisumu
Publication type
Scientific article (peer-reviewed)
DOI Title
A Critical Exploration of Agonistic Participatory Design
The Design Journal
1460-6925 1756-3062
Helena Kraff
Published year
Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous) Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design



Agonism is often described as a means for designers and citizens to reveal and contest hegemonies in society. This paper explores how agonism used within participatory design processes can enable participants to question power structures embedded in projects, express diverging views and renegotiate project frames. The potential for reaching the democratic ideals of participation thereby increases. However, there are challenges with agonism that are yet to gain momentum in the design discourse. The purpose of this paper is to identify these challenges. This is done by reflecting on a community-based tourism development project in Kenya. The reflection illustrates that not everybody may feel comfortable with sharing views in democratic forums, that people have varying preconditions for engaging in agonism and that a multitude of hegemonies exists within projects. It also highlights a need to reflect on the transferability of agonism, at a time when participatory design moves across cultures.

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