Prototyping a Collective - on ethnography, design, and use of a personal health record

PhD defense by Tariq Andersen


The challenge for design of information technology is typically modelled as a matter of developing better ways of bridging between users and designers. This is often referred to as the ‘requirements problem’ or discussed as ‘implications for design’. Since the 1970s, this challenge has been addressed by developing methods, tools, and techniques that actively involve users (Participatory Design) and by employing ethnography (Computer-Supported Cooperative Work) to mediate between users and designers. However, this research misses to take serious that, which it is all about; the future use-situation.

The thesis consists of five research papers and an extended synopsis that suggests re-framing the problem from being a matter of improving user-designer relations to critically co-exploring by performing future use-situations. The work presented comes out of a cross-institutional and interdisciplinary research and development project in cardiac healthcare in the Copenhagen Region, Denmark. From 2008-11, the CITH project has engaged more than 50 patients and relatives and 20 health professionals in research and co-design of prototypes of a web-based personal health record, myRecord.

By multiple method experiments and by drawing on posthuman theory and performative ontology such as actor–network theory and later writings in science and technology studies, an alternative design research approach is suggested: ‘Prototyping a Collective’ seeks to overcome the problem of mediating user-designer relations by the collaborative making of socio-material assemblages of ethnography, design, and use.

Assessment Committee

  • Nina Wakeford, Reader, Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Thomas Binder, Associate Professor, School of Design, Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts
  • Jørgen Bansler, Professor, Dept. of Computer Science, University of Copenhagen (chairman)

The defense is chaired by Professor Kasper Hornbæk, Dept. of Computer Science, University of Copenhagen

Academic Supervisor

Finn Kensing, Professor, dr.scient, Center for IT Innovation, University of Copenhagen.

The dissertation can be obtained at: