Publication Details

This article was originally published as: Garrety, K & Badham, R, User-centred design and the normative politics of technology, Science, Technology & Human Values, 2004, 29(2), 191-212. Copyright Sage Publications Ltd 2004.


A long tradition of discourse and practice claims that technology designers need to take note of the characteristics and aspirations of potential users in design. Practitioners in the field of user-centred design (UCD) have developed methods to facilitate this process. These methods represent interesting vehicles for the pursuit of normative politics of technology. In this article, we use a case study of the introduction and use of UCD methods in Australia to explore the politics of getting the methods to work in practice. Drawing on the work of Bruno Latour and Marc Berg, we argue that UCD methods are tools for engendering new forms of sociotechnical relations. However, their normative potential does not arise out of their ability to manipulate abstract categories such as ‘user’, ‘technology’ and ‘workplace’. Instead, it arises out of the complex and unpredictable sociotechnical mixes that are generated when people attempt to put them into practice