Research project as boundary object: Negotiating the conceptual design of a tool for International Development

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2009, pp. 21 - 41
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This paper reflects on the relationship between who one designs for and what one designs in the unstructured space of designing for political change; in particular, for supporting "International Development" with ICT. We look at an interdisciplinary research project with goals and funding, but no clearly defined beneficiary group at start, and how amorphousness contributed to impact. The reported project researched a bridging tool to connect producers with consumers across global contexts and show players in the supply chain and their circumstances. We explore how both the nature of the research and the tool's function became contested as work progressed. To tell this tale, we invoke the idea of boundary objects and the value of tacking back and forth between elastic meanings of the project's artefacts and processes. We examine the project's role in India, Chile and other arenas to draw out ways that it functioned as a catalyst and how absence of committed design choices acted as an unexpected strength in reaching its goals.
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