Late in August, I met with Gareth Beale (@GCBeale) and Mike Heyworth (@mikeheyworth) to discuss how we could move forward with the design process based on the requirements identified during our co-design session in July. Mike kindly agreed that the Council for British Archaeology would provide funds to bring in a technical consultant to help us to move toward a technical design brief and Gareth forwarded a project description to PhD students and postdoctoral researchers in the DC Labs and Department of Computer Science, which put me in touch with Jo Pugh (@mentionthewar).
Jo has convinced me that we (my partner groups and I) should retain more control over the design process and that while we have user data for heritage professionals (decision-makers) and community groups, we know very little about a third group of potential users: those who are not already part of an established heritage group, but nevertheless have an interest in heritage. While we have been proceeding with the design process based on the information we already have, we are therefore also planning how we can gather this additional user information:
- Who are these users?
- What is their interest in heritage and the changes that are made to the places that matter to them?
- How do they use digital and web-based technology?
Once we have gathered this information, we will have a fuller picture of the range of our users, which will allow us to make design decisions to provide for their wants and needs.
More significantly, Jo pointed out that while the theoretical argument I am constructing for my PhD research is critical of participatory initiatives that promote institutional agendas and co-opt local initiatives, I could be accused of promoting institutional agendas through my own participatory research practice. I have chosen to select this as a central theme for my research – why do heritage practitioners and academics find it so difficult to apply critical approaches to participation in practice. I will be studying a range of other participatory projects, documenting my own struggle of attempting to bring my practice in line with my ideals and reflecting on whether aligning theory and practice can lead to more sustainable partnerships. I think it is difficult because sometimes we don’t realise and sometimes we simply think we know best. I’m not suggesting that practitioners and academics have nothing to bring to the table, but that cloaking our agendas in a rhetoric of emancipation should have no place in our practice. I’m grateful to those of you who have called me out when I’ve strayed into this area, and would like to encourage you to continue to do so.
I have already kick-started the process of describing some of our users based on the requirements we identified in July. We had a go at this at the time, but I don’t think we had a clear enough grasp of how to do this to really come up with what we needed. We will be discussing my drafts the next time I meet with my partners in October and will hopefully be able to share examples of our personas and scenarios after that, but I thought I would give you a sneak-peak.
Based on what I told Jo about our work, he identified three main user groups and seven different personas that I have tried to describe:
- Community group members
- Liz (the booster), 63, is a local business owner in Bridlington, who wants to attract tourists, foster civic pride and meet others who love Bridlington, and is frustrated by negativity and narrow-mindedness as well as that no one listens to or seems to care about her efforts.
- Michael (the bigwig), 68, is a retired lawyer in Pontefract, who wants to responsibly represent local interest through the civic society and get more people involved in local decision-making, and is frustrated by apathy and lack of initiative.
- Heritage professionals
- Laura, (the decision-maker) 43, is an archaeologist working for Historic England, who wants to make good decisions for heritage in keeping with the interests of current and future generations, and is frustrated by the lack of time and money to give each case the attention it deserves and the absence of a mechanism to effectively communicate with stakeholders.
- Those not part of established groups
- Caroline (the tourist), 39, is a sales assistant from Manchester, visiting Flamborough, who loves having experiences of the local and every-day while on vacation, and is frustrated by the lack of time to get to know the places she visits.
- Boris (the disconnected local), 28, is a hairstylist in Bridlington, who wants an exciting social life and to be connected with current issues, and is frustrated to be stuck in Bridlington where nothing happens.
- Paulette (the teacher), 28, is a teacher in Pontefract, who wants to incorporate local history in her teaching, and is frustrated by her lack of time and accessible resources to find out more.
I have drafted scenarios for Liz, Michael and Laura that we will be discussing in October, where we will also be laying a plan for how we can find out more about Caroline, Boris and Paulette, so we can draft their scenarios based on evidence rather than pure guess-work. If any of you identify with Laura, we would also be really interested in knowing more about her.