Meet Niels Hendriks: His research is about situated action: design with dementia

Niels is from the Social Spaces Research Group in Belgium. He is in Copenhagen until the end of August 2015. He is a visiting researcher at CODE and IT-University Copenhagen. Here is his presentation of his research interests:

In the Social Spaces Research group (LUCA KULeuven, Belgium) I mainly focus on healthcare and design projects, focusing on participatory design.

My Phd research questions how to involve persons with dementia and their network of friends, family and (in)formal caregivers in the design process using participatory design (PD). Traditional participatory design methods, are not fully appropriate to incorporate persons with dementia. They create issues as they assume that the participants are cognitively able; can make use of visual and hands-on techniques; or require a high level of abstraction ability.

My research looks at how a performative situated action approach for supporting participatory design can be set up. Central to my way of working is the personal ‘confrontation’ between the designer-researcher and the PwD and the way this shapes the participatory process. Participation becomes a ‘situated action’, following the principles of person-centred care in dementia by having the designer-researcher entering the frame of reference of the individual and understanding the world from their point of view. In this way PD takes place on a ‘stage’ with a variety of ‘actors’ (researcher-designer, caregiver, family), following a ‘script’ (based on previous encounters, stories, rituals, meaningful objects or moments of life) and making use of ‘props’ (elements of future artefacts). Main research questions are the suitability and transferability of the performative situated action approach and questions on power in PD with persons with dementia.

The latter topic will be the main element of my research stay at ITU and KADK. Together with Liesbeth Huybrechts I will participate and reflect on the power balancing in the Give & Take project: when working with a variety of users (the elderly, policy makers, researchers and developers) how is power balanced and what –amongst others- is the influence of materiality (the use of methods and materials), the temporality (Who was involved when in the project?) and the territories in which the design process takes place (Who acts as outsider/insider in the process?).

You can contact Niels at Niels.Hendriks [at]

About Eva Brandt

Eva Brandt is Professor in Social Design at Design School Kolding. Eva is scientific leader of the Lab for Social Design. The main part of her research is about how designers can stage open design processes (design labs based on participatory design/codesign) with many participants who both can inquire into existing practices and explore possible futures in common. She also contributes to theorizing about experimental design research driven by programs and experiments. She has been contributing to several books such as Design Spaces (IT Press, 2005), Rehearsing the Future (The Danish Design School Press, 2010), XLAB (The Danish Design School Press, 2011), Facilitating Change – Using Interactive Methods in Organizations, Communities and Networks (Polyteknisk Forlag, 2011), and Routledge International Handbook of Participatory Design (Routledge, 2013). Practice Based Design Reseach (2017). Ledelse og samskabelse i den offentlige sektor (2018). Eva has been chairing the Nordic Design Research Conference in 2013, and are chairing the Nordes 2021 too.

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