Participants’ skills are highly important for a democratic design process, enabling everyone to participate and skilfully use designed tools and methods. This is particularly relevant for matters of participation in extended participatory design (PD) contexts that grow in scope and time span, such as in peer production communities. However, relatively little PD research has been devoted to the relation between skills and participation. Using a case rich in practice, a co-sewing café, this paper aims to understand the spectrum of participation by deeply examining the diversity and interrelation of the skills the participants practised in the café. To analyse the case, the paper compiles a tentative analytical framework based on PD and peer production literature. I ran and documented this ‘research through design’ experiment over eighteen months, hosting hundreds of participants. The diversity of the participants’ skills was elucidated through the rich materials from the practice and then placed along a learning spectrum of skilful participation. The paper concludes with an overview of the different skills practiced and developed in the café and suggests that designing for skill development can contribute to sustaining participation in such contexts.
- participatory design
- peer production