Designing Publics

From Design Thinking, Design Theory

Designing Publics

By Christopher A. Le Dantec

An exploration of design considerations in the design of technologies that support local collective action.





An exploration of design considerations in the design of technologies that support local collective action.

Contemporary computing technologies have thoroughly embedded themselves in every aspect of modern life—conducting commerce, maintaining and extending our networks of friends, and mobilizing political movements all occur through a growing collection of devices and services designed to keep and hold our attention. Yet what happens when our attention needs to be more local, collective, and focused on our immediate communities? Perhaps more important, how can we imagine and create new technologies with local communities? In Designing Publics, Christopher Le Dantec explores these questions by designing technologies with the urban homeless. Drawing on a case study of the design of a computational infrastructure in a shelter for homeless women and their children, Le Dantec theorizes an alternate vision of design in community contexts.

Focusing on collective action through design, Le Dantec investigates the way design can draw people together on social issues and create and sustain a public. By “designing publics” he refers both to the way publics arise out of design intervention and to the generative action publics take—how they “do design” as they mobilize and act in the world. This double lens offers a new view of how design and a diverse set of design practices circulate in sites of collective action rather than commercial production.


$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262035163 168 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 2 b&w illus.


  • How can design processes contribute to questions of social engagement? What happens when we shift our attention from creating artifacts to convening and developing publics? Chris Le Dantec addresses these questions not in the abstract but through detailed and compelling cases and hard-won experience. The result is engaged scholarship of the best kind.

    Paul Dourish

    Chancellor's Professor, University of California, Irvine; author of Divining a Digital Future: Mess and Mythology in Ubiquitous Computing

  • This book is insightful and clear on the emerging field of social design. Christopher Le Dantec persuasively grounds his theoretical work in the commitments of participatory design, ethnography, and design. As a result, he effectively argues for engaging public and social concerns as matters of design and in the process establishes concise language for designers to tackle our social challenges.

    Ron Wakkary

    Professor, Interactive Arts & Technology, Simon Fraser University; Professor, Industrial Design, Eindhoven University of Technology

  • Designing Publics is a landmark contribution to the emerging field of digital civics. The book provides not only a critical exploration of the concepts of publics and civics, but also an extended and detailed description of a design project which makes concrete the rich conceptual landscape that the book maps out. This book will be essential reading for students, teachers, and researchers in the developing field of digital civics.

    Peter Wright

    Professor of Social Computing, Newcastle University