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Abstract

Most studies of participatory design examine the development of a single, customized software system that supports typical workflows within a single client organization. To cope with other use contexts and new forms of work – such as communities and virtual networks – the traditional repertoire of PD methodology needs to be expanded to deal with distribution and diversification of users. Based on a ten-year case study, we describe experiences with PD in the development of a groupware system that initially targeted a single use context, but was continually extended and adapted to new contexts of use with new requirements and work practices. To enable distributed participation across contexts, new methods had to be established: inter-contextual user workshops bring users from different contexts and developers together to reflect on the usage and design of the software and its further development. Commented case studies make this face-to-face interaction persistent, providing a written documentation of distributed use experiences and design decisions. In the process of building an inter-contextual community of users, the PD focus shifts from custom software development to empowering users in assessing their own practice and technology use.

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