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With best intentions: A Foucauldian examination on children’s genuine participation in ICT design

Netta Iivari (Department of Information Processing Science, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland)
Marianne Kinnula (Department of Information Processing Science, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland)
Leena Kuure (Faculty of Humanities, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 1 June 2015

Abstract

Purpose

Children have been recognized as an important user group for information and communication technology (ICT) and methods for involving them in ICT design have already been devised. However, there is a lack of research on children’s genuine or authentic participation in ICT design as well as a lack of critical research scrutinizing how “children” and “their participation” actually end up constructed in ICT design. The paper aims to discuss these issues.

Design/methodology/approach

An intervention involving children in ICT design following the research strategy of nexus analysis was implemented. A qualitative data archive of this intervention is examined through a Foucauldian lens.

Findings

The study reveals that numerous discourses were relied on when talking about “children” and “their participation” in the case project: the discourses of participation, equality, domination, segregation, rebellion, and patronization were identified. Moreover, “children” were constructed as equal partners and influential, but also as ignorant, ignored, silent, and silencing each other. Some of the findings are in line with the existing ICT literature on the matter, others even with the literature on genuine participation of children. However, children and their participation were also constructed as “problematic” in many senses.

Research limitations/implications

The study contributes to and opens up avenues for critical research on genuine participation of users, especially children.

Practical implications

Practical suggestions for researchers interested in participation of children in ICT design are provided.

Originality/value

While research literature offers an abundance of best practices and an idealized view on children and their participation, this study shows the multitude of challenges involved and discourses circulating around.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank the school participants and the students for their cooperation, time, and support in taking part in this study.

Citation

Iivari, N., Kinnula, M. and Kuure, L. (2015), "With best intentions: A Foucauldian examination on children’s genuine participation in ICT design", Information Technology & People, Vol. 28 No. 2, pp. 246-280. https://doi.org/10.1108/ITP-12-2013-0223

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited