Publics, Participation and the Making of Umeå Pantry
Aditya Pawar, Johan Redstrom


This paper is about the making of Umeå Pantry, a public participatory art festival performance on matters of concern regarding local food production. Participatory projects have been criticized for the way that researchers harness the creative outputs of collaborative work while safeguarding the underlying power structures. In addressing such critique this project focused on design’s relational and socio-political form rather than the value-added object of design. We argue that a public orientation, as in the case of Umeå Pantry, involves a critical enquiry and reflexive approach, which goes beyond participatory design within institutional boundaries and that there is a need for informal tactics to navigate this open public space. Thus, the paper argues that public participatory design needs to rethink its sensibilities and aim for a greater emphasis on the relational and socio-political underpinnings of a project. Articulating notions such as an open program, movement, relational exchanges and infrastructure, we are trying to find out more about what it takes to prototype new participatory design practices engaging with public matters of concern.

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