Software Process of Participatory Action Research

Posted by : Cat Kutay Aug. 20, 2022

Contact : cat.kutay at Maps

This chapter describes four co-design software project areas worked on with Aboriginal Australian communities which occurred over many years. With an Aboriginal community as the innovative partner in these software developments we found benefits both for community self-value and in changing how we relate to technology and social designs, to contribute collectively to wellbeing. The process and outcomes of each project are evaluated using participatory action research to identify key features. These include evolving relationships and providing community control over the software design and development, and the crucial value of diverse relationships and protocols for culturally appropriate computing transference. Finally described are guidance for technologists to step with deeper care with and for Aboriginal communities to support project success considering the historical dispossession of land, forced removal of Aboriginal peoples from their country, and their various institutionalisations, having reduced peoples’ engagement and willingness to participate in software design and development (Radoll, 2015).

The use cases for human centred co-design with individuals and community representatives are analysed with the four stages of participatory action research (PAR) for insight. As a framework for ongoing software development, we propose in this chapter extending conceptualisations of Positive Computing (Calvo & Peters, 2014) to include: system design sustainability; and economic benefits for communities.

Software projects with Aboriginal communities ideally engage iterative negotiation processes to interpret and translate knowledge without jeopardising Aboriginal ownership of their knowledge systems. This becomes contentious when realising traditionally, Aboriginal knowledges are owned by those who have the right to share it, not by just anyone (Ormond-Parker & Sloggett, 2008). Furthermore, users and developers may alter information and control its access according to their knowledge about the listener (Winschiers-Theophilus et al, 2012). This might be deliberate, stemming from fear of misuse of the information shared, or not understanding its relevance to the other parties. While we evaluate our design workshops for software development, it is helpful to understand about ‘why’ this is the right way, and why are there different protocols across cultures.

In software usability studies and design with Aboriginal peoples, we work with the sentiment of “Ngapartji Ngapartji: We give, you give”. As Brereton et al. notes (2014) “the notion of reciprocity is first and foremost” (p1183) in the development of two-way learning for any knowledge sharing.

We are working with users who are novice both in the technology and the western concept of self-directed design, and software designers who are novice in the community cultural norms they are working with. This builds on work by Winschiers-Theophilus et al. (2012) who acknowledged the desire for “reframing of relationships between cultural contexts and meaning in design” (p. 90). Our work is with established groups who were already seeking a solution through software and to be responsive to their changing needs and aspirations, we use a collaborative and two-way learning approach developing localised processes.

Extract from Chapter 27, Indigenous Engineering for an Enduring Culture, edited by Cat Kutay, Elyssebeth Leigh, Juliana Kaya Prpic and Lyndon Ormond-Parker. Published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing

Authors: Cat Kutay & Sean Walsh

Location: Casuarina Darwin CDU