Participatory Design actively involves relevant stakeholders in the design process. This is exactly what we are planning to do in the vera.ai project: Within six sessions, starting in March 2023, we will elaborate and bring together user needs and design prototypes.
Developing and building trustworthy AI solutions in the fight against disinformation is the primary aim of vera.ai. These solutions shall be used by the widest possible community, including journalists, investigators, and researchers.
At this stage of the project, it is one of vera.ai’s focus points to elaborate and define end-users' needs and requirements. To do so, responsible project partners follow multiple paths such as conducting an ethnographic study in a European newsroom, carrying out an online survey (both started soon after project start in 2022) and facilitating six Participatory Design sessions that kicked off in March 2023 after a preparatory and planning stage in January and February.
Participatory Design is a method that actively involves all relevant stakeholders in the design process (of e.g.: products or hardware). It values each stakeholder’s perspective and input. Hence, it aims to ensure that design solutions (1) meet the needs and expectations of the users, (2) are relevant to them, (3) are meaningful and (4) give them a sense of ownership of the solutions.
For reaching a well-balanced solution of designers' and end-users' needs, Participatory Design offers various steps. One is to create personas, which is a description of fictional characters who would use the design. It is equally important to understand the context in which the design will be used. This can be reached through ethnographic studies, interviews, or questionnaires – resembling also vera.ai’s methods.
It is then helpful to create use cases that describe the interaction of a user with the design. Designers, on the other hand, bring along prototypes. Prototypes in this regard can either be as rudimental as a drawing on a napkin, or they can be designs ready for testing. What follows is an iterative process of interaction and communication between end-users and designers to purposefully improve the design according to stakeholders' needs.
Its roots can be found in the 1960s in Scandinavia. Participatory Design was first mainly used in the design of work-related systems to empower industry workers to actively shape how work is performed.
Then, the method was transferred into technological processes such as alternative systems for image processing in the newspaper industry.
Nowadays, Participatory Design is also applied in the design of computing systems for leisure or education, just as non-computer related designs, such as community or city development.
In a series of six sessions, running from March to May 2023, we aim to bring together the various stakeholders, namely our research/technical partners and potential end-users, such as journalists or investigators. Sessions will be thematically clustered according to the researched topics within vera.ai, and explore how to improve AI-based tools currently in development. Project partners will introduce prototypes developed within the project and exchange these with end-users.
The overall aim of the sessions is to improve our understanding of what our end-users, who work against disinformation, need, how tools should look like and what functionalities they should include. On this basis, technical partners can more precisely develop and improve their developments that will ultimately result in prototypes of services and solutions.
Author: Anna Schild (DW)
Editor: Eva Lopez (DW), Lalya Gaye (EBU)