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Stigmas and Barriers

This week we began our group project. The process started with feeling each other out. We tried to first understand our capacities which in turn could indicate our roles in this project. We explored how we might be able to complement one another.

A cartoon image depicting a bridge that is broken in the middle, creating a divide between a rich person and a poor person.

As we did this, we started to see a few areas we wanted to explore. One area that stood out was the notion of stigma and how stigma can affect the way people use spaces. As an example, one of our team members told a story of a bridge in her home city that was stigmatized because it crossed over into an impoverished neighbourhood. People who weren’t from said neighbourhood would avoid it entirely. This led us towards thinking more about the nature of these types of stigmas and whether it would be possible for them to be transformed.

We essentially saw these stigmas as psychological barriers. This is quite interesting because these psychological barriers essentially performed the job of a physical barrier. The ideas of in and out-groups came to mind and how things like age, gender or ability could create this sort of psychological boundary.

As we talked, we brought forward the notion of playgrounds being stigmatized. We saw that playgrounds, being typically designed for children, seem to be places that adults, including the elderly, typically avoid. Even, as I’ve been experiencing lately, when an adult is with their own child, the adult tends to stay on the sidelines of the park, or at best will hover around their child to ensure their safety. The playground in that sense isn’t a very inclusive space.

The question comes to mind: what makes someone comfortable vs uncomfortable in a physical space?

In theory, could we use co-design to support designs that don’t create this sort of discomfort? The answer is most likely… yes.

Another area we began exploring was a more direct exploration into co-design and the challenges of doing this well.

We’ve noticed that there are difficulties in co-designing, perhaps because designers are unsure of how to work best with people who are facing ‘real’ problems and how to integrate them into design processes.

There may be an assumption here that this is in fact a problem–which is something we’ll have to untangle. But regardless, there seems to be some interesting questions we can ask about the co-design process. Questions like:

  • Why is there a gap between co-designers and designers?

  • Why aren't people on the periphery typically included in design?

  • How do we effectively integrate co-designers into a design process?

Now, as we move forward, we’ll try to better hone in on a direction and better frame this focus. We’ll still give ourselves some time to do more thinking and research before settling on a main research question. I will say that already this project feels like it will lead us down some interesting paths.

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