About the workshop

Participatory design practitioners seek to empower, add value, and in general strive to broaden the perspective and increase the level of empathy in design for every aspect of life, by giving specific and often under represented user groups, such as children, the physically challenged and the elderly a voice in the design process.

Participatory designers do not presume to know what goes on inside the mind of their target users; instead, they seek and generate ideas through observation, interaction and collaboration with members of the target user group in the field and the lab in order to create solutions that address needs and desires from the user perspective.

Animal Computer Interaction (ACI) seeks to extend the field of user centered design beyond the human species by exploring the interaction between animals and technology, and developing participatory frameworks and protocols for the design of technology intended for animals. In this respect ACI offers important opportunities for comparison and reflection on the theory and practice of participatory design.  Working with animals poses many of the same challenges that designers encounter when working with children, whereby researchers have to account for the participants’ specific cognitive capabilities at particular developmental stages, and contend with limited attention spans and communication barriers.

In the field of Interaction Design with Children (IDC) the degree to which children can effectively express themselves and therefore effectively take part in a participatory design process varies greatly with age and according to developmental parameters. To compound matters, the meaning of what counts as participation, what is the exact nature of the role played by participants (e.g. user, informant, co-designer) and how much voice is actually given to them in the design process is the subject of an ongoing debate in the community.

With this workshop we aim to bring together researchers from the fields of animal and child computer interaction as well as those working with other specific user groups, in order to contrast the challenges, they face, the methods they use and the lessons they have learnt so far.  We believe the juxtaposition of animals and children to be potentially controversial but at the same time, and partly because of its controversy, we argue that it provides a unique lens through which we can examine core notions such as those of participant and participation beyond preconceptions surrounding distinctions of species or age. We propose that this juxtaposition will enable researchers to gain a better understanding of participatory design with children and animals as a practice and research approach, and of the values that participatory design brings to each of the research communities respectively as well as to the broader research and design community more broadly.

Consistent with the theme of ACI2017, we believe that a better understanding of participatory design as a practice and as a research approach could foster the development of more empathic, and methodologically and ethically appropriate forms of engagement between researchers and those research participants whose needs and wants might otherwise not be represented during the design process.

Aims and Goals

The workshop has the following main goals:

(1) To build a community of researchers engaged in work related to interaction design with children, animals or both, who are interested in comparing the two domains.

(2) To share experiences of designing for and with animals and children, and identify similarities and differences in the process, with a focus on related challenges, so that individual insights can benefit the community’s reflection on participatory design as a whole.

(3) To identify opportunities, and develop an agenda, for further research and interdisciplinary collaborations.

(4) To share the reflections of the workshop participants with the wider community, via the publication of a journal article or a journal special issue.

Overall, we expect that the workshop will constitute the basis for the development of a long-lasting working group devoted to the exploration of issues related to participatory design through the lens of animal and child computer interaction.


The workshop’s day will be divided into five sessions: introductions, presentations, mapping, discussion and planning.


The organizers will introduce their perspective on the workshop topic and invite the participants to briefly introduce themselves to the rest of the attendees.


Through short presentations, participants will share their experiences with participatory design with either animals or children, or both, including research approaches, challenges faced and lessons learnt.


Based on the content of the presentations, participants will engage in a mapping session moderated by the organizers and aiming to identify similarities and differences between participatory design with children, on the one hand, and participatory design with animals, on the other hand.


The themes that will emerge during the mapping session, will be subsequently discussed in order to explore possible research topics and collaborations that participants and the wider community could explore going forward.


The day will end with a planning session during which participants will draw a plan of action, based on the outcome of the discussion session, for publication and potential future studies and collaborations.

How to Participate

We invite interested researchers to submit a short (1-4 pages) position paper providing a brief overview of your work with children, animals or both and your thoughts on the juxtaposition of participatory design with animals and children.  Although the expertise of the organizers is in working with children and animals and thus the workshop is focused around these two communities we welcome submissions from researchers working with other populations with unique needs and will adapt the structure of the workshop based on the disciplinary scope of the submission received.

Papers should be written using the SIGCHI Paper Format and submitted as a PDF file via easychair by September 17, 2017.

Acceptance notifications will be sent by: September 20, 2017

Workshop Date: November 21, 2017.

Please note that this workshop is held as part of the Fourth International Conference on Animal Computer Interaction (ACI 2017) in Milton Keynes, UK (21-23 November 2017) and as such participants will need to register for the workshop on the conference website.


Yoram Chisik is a research fellow at the Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute (M-ITI).  His research focuses on the ways in which beings be they large or small, 2 legged or 4 legged, interact with and through technology and on the ways in which the physical and digital realms can be integrated.

Clara Mancini is a Senior Lecturer in Interaction Design at The Open University’s School of Computing and Communications and the founding director of the Animal-Computer Interaction (ACI) Laboratory. The ACI Lab’s mission is to expand the boundaries of interaction design beyond the human species by: investigating the interaction between animals and technology; designing interactive technology that supports animals’ activities and welfare; and developing user-centered methods enabling animals to participate in the design process. Clara is especially interested in ACI’s methodological challenges, innovation opportunities and potential for contributing to human and animal wellbeing, social inclusion, interspecies cooperation and environmental restoration.


For further information contact Yoram Chisik at:  ychisik [AT] gmail.com