Designing for engagement: Intercultural communication and/as participatory design

Guiseppe Getto


Intercultural researchers have amassed a wealth of best practices when it comes to improving communication in situations where interlocutors are globally dispersed, linguistically diverse, and operating from within radically different cultural systems. At the same time, little attention has been paid to the infrastructure that supports such communication, and how its attendant technologies, networks, and specific modes of communication are culturally embedded and thus both encourage and constrain possibilities for intercultural communication. As a critical intervention, I present below a method for researching and designing communication infrastructure so that culturally-situated practices and values of both designers and users are treated as assets for design. Drawing on best practices for intercultural research and participatory design, I argue that only through including users at every level of use and design can we hope to foster communication that is truly global, and that meets the needs of all stakeholders. Ultimately, I advocate using such a methodology to continually adapt communication infrastructure that designers and users share in order to better represent and promote user values and lifeways.


user-experience design; ethnography; usability; multicultural discourse

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