Work, labour and action: the role of participatory design in (re)activating the political dimension of work


  • Liesbeth Huybrechts
  • Virginia Tassinari
  • Barbara Roosen
  • Teodora Constantinescu


This article discusses the difficult task of Participatory Design (PD) to design for/with the political dimension of work, such as the work environments' care for inclusion of different groups. It first describes PD's role through time in giving form to this political dimension after the crisis of Fordism and detects some challenges PD is confronted with in addressing this task today. It then explores how Hannah Arendt's reflections on the political dimension of work can contribute to addressing these challenges, researching how her definitions of 'work', 'labour', 'action', 'agor?', 'heroes' and 'interests' can be used as steering concepts that support the (re)activation of this political dimension. We describe how we used Arendt's concepts to steer a PD case in urban design with a group of architects, companies and citizens on how to reintegrate work into the city space of Antwerp. This paper ends with a discussion on the implications of using Arendt's concepts in PD for work.

Full text at ACM