Co-Designing with Dogs – Open University UK

The Open University’s Animal Computer Interaction (ACI) lab organized a workshop on the 12th and 13th of April 2013 on Co-Designing with Dogs. This workshop is part of the More-Than-Human Participatory research project, led by the University of Edinburgh. This project has the aim to “explore how a broader account of community – one that recognises the active participation of non-humans – might challenge understandings of how research can be co-designed and co-produced“.

The objective of ACI research is described on the ACI Blog by Clara Mancini, Research Fellow and head of the Animal-Computer Interaction Lab at The Open University:

One of the aims – perhaps the most important aim – of Animal-Computer Interaction as a research discipline is to develop a user-centred approach to the design of technology intended for animals. Not only does this mean developing technology which is informed by the best available knowledge of animals’ needs and preferences. Crucially it also means involving animal users in the development process as legitimate stakeholders, design contributors and research participants“.

This workshop focused on assistant dog training and specifically aimed to explore how animals can contribute to ACI research and interaction design processes. The ACI lab is planning to design “a series of plug-on, dog-friendly computing interfaces for various domestic appliances to support assistance dogs in their tasks, thus improving their welfare and professional life”. This includes, for example, dog friendly interfaces for washing machines, light switches, and door handles: devices that are currently not informed by the perspective of the dog.

The video that summarizes this workshop can be watched below. The ACI lab follows a meaningful approach that, besides the play-element, is very much in line with the research I am pursuing. I am convinced that it will give a valuable understanding of the needs and preferences of assistance dogs. Furthermore the other workshops of the More-Than-Human Participatory research project could show new examples of participatory design with animals as the intended users.