User-centred design and the normative politics of technology

Karin Garrety, Richard Badham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


A long tradition of discourse and practice claims that technology designers need to take note of the characteristics and aspirations of potential users in design. Practitioners in the field of user-centered design (UCD) have developed methods to facilitate this process. These methods represent interesting vehicles for the pursuit of normative politics of technology. In this article, the authors use a case study of the introduction and use of UCD methods in Australia to explore the politics of getting the methods to work in practice. Drawing on the work of Bruno Latour and Marc Berg, the authors argue that UCD methods are tools for engendering new forms of socio-technical relations. However, their normative potential does not arise out of their ability to manipulate abstract categories such as user, technology, and workplace. Instead, it arises out of the complex and unpredictable socio-technical mixes that are generated when people attempt to put them into practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-212
Number of pages22
JournalScience, technology and human values
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • actor-network theory
  • usability
  • technology design
  • user involvement


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