Towards a Co-design Perspective on Data: Foregrounding Data in the Design and Innovation of Data-based Services

Cathrine Seidelin

Research output: Book / Anthology / Report / Ph.D. thesisPh.D. thesis


Data supports an increasing number of services in society. This has created a growing need for organizations to consider data a key facilitator of service innovation and development. However, research reveals that organizations lack the tools to support creative and innovative work with data in ways that help to promote data-driven innovation. To address this problem, this dissertation examines how organizations can design and innovate their data-based services. Specifically, it explores how domain experts who are not IT professionals may participate in designing and innovating the data and data structures that underpin the digital services they use and provide, as part of their work practices. The dissertation demonstrates how it is possible to enable domain experts to design with data when data is carefully foregrounded. It also demonstrates that domain experts may collaboratively design with data in a way that takes into account that many organizations are connected to external stakeholders and organizations through shared practices, systems, and, indeed, data. The dissertation is based on a three-year action research study with Industriens Uddannelser (IU), an organization that works to maintain and develop vocational and continuing education programmes related to Denmark’s industrial sector. This dissertation takes a practice perspective to explicitly focus on day-to-day data practices as a way to investigate how IU may work with data, to innovate and design their data-based services.

The long-term action research project with IU forms the core of this dissertation’s six principal contributions. First, the dissertation discusses how data is used and handled today by local government and organizations in the public sector. Second, the dissertation presents a diagram that reveals the complex network of stakeholders which frame how an organization may provide and innovate essential data-based services. Third, the dissertation investigates how an organization can develop and establish a culture of design and innovation to foster data-driven innovation. Fourth, the dissertation elaborates on the tools developed to enable domain experts who are not IT professional, to participate in the design of the data-based services they use and provide as part of their work practices. Fifth, based on the tools developed, the dissertation proposes a Data Mode Map, which is an instrument that supports reflection on the design of data notation for co-design. Finally, the dissertation’s principal theoretical contribution is the proposal to develop a co-design perspective on data. This perspective aims to support organizations in developing their existing as well as new data-based services using data. Additionally, this perspective promotes collaborative methods that reveal and take into account varying data practices in the design process – not only within the individual organization, but across the network of stakeholders who are more or less involved or influenced by new data-driven initiatives. The last contribution, in particular, offers suggestions for future research.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherIT-Universitetet i København
Number of pages283
ISBN (Print)978-87-7949-037-6
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • service design
  • Service Innovation
  • design
  • Design Artefacts
  • Data
  • action research approach
  • organisational aspects
  • Data-driven service design


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