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Participatory Design Fiction for Alternate Civics (RDF17/DES/VINES)

   Faculty of Arts, Design and Social Sciences

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  Prof J Vines  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Design Fiction is rapidly growing in popularity as a mode of research enquiry. What precisely defines design fiction is still open for much debate; however, typically it involves the creation of “diegetic prototypes” where fictional products, services, platforms and technologies become located within coherent narratives of near or far futures. Another heavily contested term, participatory design refers to the active involvement of those likely to be affected by the introduction of new technologies, services, systems (and otherwise) in the design processes. Unlike many forms of design fiction, participatory design emphasises how design should be a distributed practice that is guided, controlled and shaped by participants. Furthermore, while it has an interest in shaping alternative futures, participatory design has a strong emphasis on current practices, problems and the matters of concern that affect people's lives now.

This PhD project will explore the ways in which design fiction, as a productive means to speculate on alternate societal futures, might be brought together with participatory practices of design to explore contemporary issues for civil society. As a first step, the research will involve the critical examination of methods and techniques from these two fields and the synthesis of these into new tools and methods for conducting Participatory Design Fictions. The PhD will then focus on a series of two or three participatory design case studies focused on designing for Alternate Civics. Here, the student will work closely with non-profit, voluntary and community sector organisations and the citizens they serve to create and use diegetic prototypes to guide and promote original new forms of community-based service design. These case studies will be defined by the PhD candidate but carefully guided by the supervisory team who have numerous collaborators in the North East of England. Outcomes of this PhD may include new methods for conducting speculative forms of design research, the empirical study of participatory design fictions by non-designers and third sector organisations, or toolkits and associated practices that enable non-designers to engage in participatory design fiction work in their own organisations.

It is expected that the candidate would have a strong undergraduate degree and/or Master’s degree in a design or related field. They should also have a strong sense of the value of participatory and collaborative approaches to design, and a keen interest in developing skills in qualitative research. This studentship will be supervised by Prof. John Vines and Dr. Abigail Durrant.

Eligibility and How to Apply
Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required (evidence required by 1 August 2017).

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please ensure you quote the advert reference above on your application form.
Deadline for applications: 20 January 2017
Start Date: 2 October 2017

Northumbria University is an equal opportunities provider and in welcoming applications for studentships from all sectors of the community we strongly encourage applications from women and under-represented groups.

Funding Notes

This project is being considered for funding in competition with other projects, through one of two types of funding packages available:
• Fully funded studentships include a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates for 2017/18 (this is yet to be set, in 2016/17 this is £14,296 pa) and fees (Home/EU £4,350 / International £13,000 / International Lab-based £16,000), and are available to applicants worldwide.
• As Northumbria celebrates its 25th anniversary as a University and in line with our international outlook, some projects may also be offered to students from outside of the EU supported by a half-fee reduction.


Elsden, C., Nissen, B., Garbett, A., Chatting, D., Kirk, D., and Vines, J. 2016. Metadating: Exploring the romance and future of personal data. In: Proceedings of CHI ’16, ACM Press, pp. 685-698. DOI:

Vines, J., Denman-Cleaver, T., Dunphy, P., Wright, P., and Olivier, P. 2014. Experience design theatre: exploring the role of live theatre in scaffolding design dialogues. In: Proceedings of CHI ’14, ACM Press, pp. 683-692. DOI:

Vines, J., Clarke, R., Wright, P., McCarthy, J., and Olivier, P. 2013. Configuring Participation: On how we involve people in design. In: Proceedings of CHI ’13, ACM Press, pp. 429-438. DOI:

Briggs, P., Blythe, M., Vines, J., Lindsay, S., Dunphy, P., Nicholson, J., Green, D., Kitson, J., Monk, A., and Olivier, P. 2012. Invisible design: exploring insights and ideas through ambiguous film scenarios. In: Proceedings of DIS ’12, ACM Press, pp. 534-543. DOI:

Vines, J., Blythe, M., Lindsay, S., Dunphy, P., Monk, A., and Olivier, P. 2012. Questionable Concepts: Critique as a resource for designing with eighty somethings. In: Proceedings of CHI ’12, ACM Press, pp. 1169-1178. DOI:
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