Technical Authorship: Refiguring the Designer-User Conflict and the Visioning of Technical Futures

Marisa Cohn, Susan Sim, Kavita Philip

Research output: Conference Article in Proceeding or Book/Report chapterArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


This paper argues for the application of authorship analysis to technology design. It extends techniques used in Science Studies to investigate scientific authorship in order to define a concept of technical authorship. To illustrate the potential of this approach, authorship analysis is applied to particular prescriptive software design methodologies including Participatory Design and Agile Software Development. The results of this analysis are the recognition that: a) design methodologies are rhetorics of authorship, b) the designer-user relationship can be seen as a conflict of contested authorship, and c) this conflict can be seen within the tensions in the figuration of the user and the designer along a subject-object continuum. “Figuration,” a technique used by Donna Haraway, brings about a new understanding of the centrality of the user in the design process as well as the role of the designer as the contested author technical futures. The implications suggest that design researchers might use authorship as a new approach to the politics of design by re-figuring the designer and user rather than collapsing the distinction between these roles.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the iConference
Publication date2008
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • authorship
  • STS
  • figuraton
  • design methodologies
  • politics of design


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