University of Oulu

Matin Mahboob Kanafi, Netta Iivari, and Marianne Kinnula. 2022. Brave and Kind Superheroes – Children’s Reflections on the Design Protagonist Role. In Participatory Design Conference 2022: Volume 1 (PDC 2022 Vol. 1), August 19–September 01, 2022, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 11 pages.

Brave and kind superheroes : children’s reflections on the design protagonist role

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Author: Mahboob Kanafi, Matin1; Iivari, Netta1; Kinnula, Marianne1
Organizations: 1INTERACT research unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.9 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Association for Computing Machinery, 2022
Publish Date: 2023-01-24


A design protagonist role for children has recently gained attention in political participatory design, with the aim of reframing the position of a child in relation to technology. However, the concept and the characteristics of the design protagonist remain quite vague still. We conducted a “My Superhero” design project with 13‐14-year-old schoolchildren, giving them a voice, nurturing their agency, and inviting them to reflect on their design experiences and the notion of the design protagonist. The findings show the children spontaneously adopted different roles, also the design protagonist role, in the design process without us intentionally guiding them towards those. The findings reveal children’s views on the characteristics of a design protagonist and their perceptions of their own characteristics and learning within the design process. Several factors mediating children’s adoption of the protagonist role, including context, personal interest, empathy, prior joint experience, adults’ role, self-learning, and soft skills, were discovered.

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ISBN Print: 978-1-4503-9388-1
Pages: 87 - 97
DOI: 10.1145/3536169.3537783
Host publication: Embracing Cosmologies: Expanding Worlds of Participatory Design. Proceedings of the 17th Participatory Design Conference, 19th August-1st September 2022, Online and Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK
Host publication editor: Vlachokyriakos, Vasilis
Yee, Joyce
Grönvall, Erik
Noronha, Raquel
Botero, Andrea
Del Gaudio, Chiara
Akama, Yoko
Clarke, Rachel
Vines, John
Conference: Participatory Design Conference
Type of Publication: A4 Article in conference proceedings
Field of Science: 113 Computer and information sciences
Funding: This study was funded by Academy of Finland (Grant #324685, Make-a-Difference project). This research is connected to the GenZ project, a strategic profiling project in human sciences at the University of Oulu, supported by the Academy of Finland (Grant #318930) and the University of Oulu.
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 324685
Detailed Information: 324685 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2022 Copyright held by the owner/author(s).