Design Dilemmas and Canvas Digital Platforms for Research Communities

Design Dilemmas and Canvas Digital Platforms for Research Communities

by Martijn de Waal

Designing digital platforms and infrastructures for resource communities can be a challenge. Designers and technologists find themselves working with new technologies, like blockchain, AI, Internet of Things and digital platforms. There are no well-trodden paths or extensive template libraries that can be easily implemented. And, these technologies are not simply neutral tools. They come with their own affordances and limitations that set the stage for eventual interaction between community members. 

In addition, designers must explore how the systems they are building can be best designed to address the values of the resource community. Rather than optimizing for the most efficient service at the individual level or the most economical use of resources, these communities often aim to strengthen their social relations and contribute to environmental sustainability. Yet, not all of these values may be clear from the get go, and tensions may arise between the different values at play and the various interests of stakeholders, as well as the affordances of the technologies involved.

The canvas (downloadable below) is one of the tools we designed to help designers and companies discover the values within a particular community, understand which values should be made explicit and how they can be aligned with the affordances of the technologies. 

The canvas employs a Value Sensitive Design (VSD) framework that can help explore the values at stake, the affordances of technologies, and the motivations and interests of stakeholders. It relates to technological innovation, and the design of actual services and features of digital platforms for resource communities. As such, it can help structure the design process from the start. Alternatively, the canvas can be used during the design process to explore how various values found in a particular community relate to the features of a particular digital service. The six design dilemmas are meant to further explicate some of the tensions that may arise when encoding these values into a digital infrastructure.