Alicia Smedberg: Modalities of Agency within Infrastructuring Processes

Welcome to a K3 seminar with Alicia Smedberg, PhD student in Interaction design. The title of the talk is:

Modalities of Agency within Infrastructuring Processes

It will take place on Wednesday, February 6, at 10.15-12.00 in The K3 Open Studio, NIC 0541, Niagara, and it will be Alicia’s 30 percent PhD seminar. Pelle Ehn, professor emeritus in Interaction design, will function as discussant.

Below you will find an abstract for the talk. If you would like to read Alicia’s text before the seminar, please mail her:


This Ph.D. centers around the issue of agency within Participatory Design (PD). While  the issue of agency bares relevance almost anywhere we look – and is inseparable from questions of power and governance; structure and solidarity; and from acting (regardless of how and why we act) – it holds particular bearing to the democratic principles of PD.

Over the past 18 months I have been conducting an inquiry into the particular issues that arise within infrastructuring processes spanning across the public and civic sectors. Through an on-going presence in two long-term projects (Amiralstaden and The Do-Think-Tank), and two fixed-term projects (Livskonceptet, and a case study around wind turbines and landownership in Orkney) I have sought to identify traits of agency. Questions of how and when to act, and of equal importance, when not to act, require strategies that cannot be contained by a universal rule but must be the result of a repertoire of sensitive approaches towards the practitioner’s situation. Within the 30% seminar, as well as within this Ph.D. as a whole, I seek to exemplify, with the support of anecdotes from the case studies, three modalities of agency: illumination, sensitization, and emancipation. While I have taken to the habit of speaking about these three modalities as a journey or a trajectory (to highlight the constant movement they encompass), it is important to note that neither agency nor emancipation is a fixed state that can be reached.

The seminar will provide a summary of the 30% text: In its initial half it attempts to map out the very bedrock of the project: its disciplinary position; its ontology, epistemology and methodology; its methods. In doing so I hope to afford the reader an insight into the how and why I have partaken in my case studies. The case studies will then be elaborated on briefly, followed by a discussion and reflection on future directions.

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