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              design  for  development:     Participatory  Design  and  Contextual  Research     with  Indigenous  Maya  Communities       Maria  Rogal   University  of  Florida                   GLIDE  ’10  Conference   October  27,  2010  


A B S T R A C T   design  for  development  (d4d)  is  an  initiative  where,  I,  along  with  my  graphic  design   students,  work  together  with  people  in  marginalized  indigenous  communities—in  the   southern  Mexican  states  of  Quintana  Roo  and  Yucatán—and  other  disciplinary  experts  to   develop  solutions  to  problems  we  mutually  identify  and  research  in  context.  Our  research   process  compels  us  to  learn  about  the  context  of  our  project—most  importantly  about  our   project  partners,  all  highly  skilled  Maya  who  historically  lacked  access  to  capital  required  to   bring  their  products  to  a  cosmopolitan  regional  market.  Learning  about  context  also   necessitates  learning  about  cultures,  the  economy,  and  the  environment.  We  begin  this   process  at  the  partner  site  in  México  as  part  of  a  participatory  and  responsible  design   research  practice.  The  $ieldwork  component  empowers  all  participants  to  connect,   exchange,  collaborate,  innovate,  and  create  which  contributes  to  developing  sustainable   solutions.       K E Y  W O R D S   Maya,  Yucatán,  Graphic  Design,  Design  for  Development,  Ethnography        

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IN T R O D U C T IO N   Among  other  aspects  of  how  the  development  of  communication  technologies  affects   traditional  global  divides,  GLIDE  ’10’s  (www.glide10.org)  website  states  the  conference   intends  to  look  at  “how  designers  use  technology  to  facilitate  interactions  with  global   communities—particularly  indigenous  ones.”  To  contribute  to  this  dialogue,  I  share  key   aspects  from  several  collaborative  projects  over  the  past  six  years.  These  projects—with   marginalized  indigenous  people  in  rural  communities  in  central  and  southern  México,  US   and  Mexican  graphic  design  students  and  faculty,  and  disciplinary  experts—provide  the   framework  to  explore  ways  design  processes  and  products  can  contribute  to  fostering   sustainable  economic,  social,  cultural,  and  environmental  development.  Taking  place  as  part   of  the  design  for  development  initiative  (d4d)  I  founded,  projects  are  designed  to  be   continuous  and  dynamic  learning  interactions  that  originate  with  local  partners  and  are,   therefore,  relevant  to  local  needs.       I  began  working  in  México’s  Yucatán  peninsula  because  of  its  historical,  conceptual,   practical,  and  theoretical  messiness:  the  history  of  subjugation  and  rebellion  of  the  Maya,   the  passive  and  assertive  resistance  found  in  Maya  customs,  ways  of  life,  language,  the   commodi&ication  of  the  Maya  regionally  and  nationally  to  foster  tourism,  and  the  con*lict   between  the  concepts  of  ancient  and  modern  Maya  and  how  all  of  these  aspects  combine,   interact,  and  play  out  in  this  space.    

  Figure  1.  (Left)  Using  Google  Maps,  we  identify  our  project  sites  in  Quintana  Roo,  and  (Right)   detail  of  tourist  map  of  region.      

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My  interest  in  exploring  the  visual  culture  of  the  Yucatán  peninsula  and  exploring   alternatives  to  stereotypical  representations  of  Maya  people—used  to  sell  the  Yucatán  to   tourists—overlapped  with  the  needs  and  goals  of  people  in  rural  indigenous  communities   who  I  would  come  to  know.    

  Figure  2.  The  wrap  on  this  tour  bus  depicts  a  man  dressed  as  an  ancient  Maya  warrior/ball   player  and,  on  the  other  side,  a  tourist  couple  embracing  before  the  pyramid  at  Chichén  Itzá.   Both  sides  of  the  bus  show  tourists  at  play.         Two  different  organized  groups  of  people—beekeepers  and  farmers  seeking  to  bring  their   respective  products  to  the  Maya  Riviera  market—proposed  projects  which  led  us  to   collaborate  with  people  in  their  own  environment,  thereby  learning  from  different   worldviews  and  perspectives  to  expand  our  thinking,  and  stretching  our  capabilities  to   develop  what  would  be  new  and  innovative.1  Involving  graphic  design  students  in  these   projects  seemed  appropriate  for  two  reasons:  1)  projects  had  a  built-­‐in  complexity   demanding  a  team  approach;  and  2)  it  was  an  opportunity  for  students  to  gain  7irst-­‐hand   experience  working  in  another  cultural  environment,  compelling  them  to  think  and  learn   about  development  and  other  global  issues  in  strategic  and  tactical  ways.    

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Figure   3.   Students   from   the   University   of   Florida   observe   beekeepers   harvest   honey   in   Santa   Elena,  Yucatán.       My  goal  in  writing  this  paper  for  GLIDE  ’10  is  to  contribute  to  the  body  of  knowledge  for   those  working  in  development  with  indigenous  people  in  rural  contexts.  Communication   technologies  are  directly  related  and  dependent  on  interconnected  social,  economic,   cultural,  and  political  factors.  In  order  to  adequately  describe  the  aspects  of  our  d4d   projects  that  speci&ically  address  technologies,  I  omit  detailed  descriptions  of  projects,   directing  the  reader  to  our  project  website,  www.design4development.org,  for  further   information.       The  %irst  part  of  this  paper  provides  background  on  the  Maya  Riviera  and  Yucatán  peninsula   region  of  México  so  the  reader  has  some  context  to  frame  our  (d4d’s)  project  work.  I   continue  by  describing  select  activities,  approaches,  considerations,  and  ,indings.  The   initiative  itself  is  a  process  and  so  what  I  write  is  based  on  thoughtful  evaluation  of  my   experiences  working  up  until  now.           C O N T E X T   The  Yucatán  peninsula,  speci1ically  the  southern  Mexican  states  of  Yucatán  and  Quintana   Roo,  is  considered  the  northernmost  settled  territory  of  the  ancient  Maya  civilization  in   Mesoamerica.  Today  the  majority  of  inhabitants  of  small  towns  on  the  eastern  side  of  the  

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peninsula  are  self-­‐identi&ied  Maya,  although  not  all  people  speak,  understand,  or  read   Maya.2    This  region  was  geographically,  politically,  economically,  and,  in  many  ways,   culturally  separated  from  México  as  a  nation  state  until  the  early  20th  century.  To  build  a   uni$ied  national  identity,  the  Mexican  government  conceptually  embraced  indigenous   cultures  as  a  way  to  lay  claim  to  all  of  México,  which  meant  its  history  and  native  peoples   while,  at  the  same  time,  it  promoted  the  use  of  only  one  language—Spanish—and  modern   western  values  over  traditional  practices.  In  this  context  the  Maya  were  relegated  to  a   position  as  the  “other.”  While  the  imaginaries  of  Maya  culture  are  embraced,  Maya  people  as   individuals  with  agency  are  not.  Plainly  speaking,  they  are  kept  down  by  their  ethnicity.  For   example,  Maya  people,  and  those  whose  physical  features  resemble  the  Maya,  are  employed   primarily  in  the  service  industry  and  rarely,  if  ever,  have  an  opportunity  to  rise  to  a   managerial  level.         DAILY  LIFE   In  rural  areas,  women  are  responsible  for  taking  care  the  home,  including  children,  and  men   are  responsible  for  providing  for  the  family.  If  men  are  still  living  in  the  community  and   have  not  immigrated,  most  will  farm  and  often  have  another  small  business  to  bring  in  cash   income.  People  live  within  the  town  boundaries  while  farmland  lies  on  the  periphery,   ranging  anywhere  from  two  to  20  miles  from  town.3  Most  families  have  a  milpa,  a  small  plot   of  land  where  a  variety  of  symbiotic  edible  plants,  including  corn,  black  beans,  jicama,   peppers,  and  yuca  grow  together  with  little  need  for  tending.  For  centuries  the  milpa  fed  the   family  and  remains  both  culturally  and  economically  meaningful.  It  is  a  way  that  families   survive  despite  economic  dif0iculties—with  a  milpa  you  can  still  eat  even  if  there  is  no  cash   income.  The  milpa  remains  important  because,  despite  the  bustling  tourism  industry,  the   Yucatán  peninsula  is  one  of  the  poorer  regions  of  México,  with  the  minimum  wage  for  an   eight-­‐hour  day  set  at  just  under  US$5.00.  Of  course,  minimum  wage  does  not  apply  to   everyone  because  not  everyone  earns  an  income.  For  example,  farmers,  the  self-­‐employed,   and  informal  sector  workers  would  not  necessarily  earn  this  much  money  in  a  day.  The   combination  of  low  wages,  lack  of  opportunity,  and  the  perception  of  “fast  money”  have   been  the  major  motivations  for  people  to  immigrate  to  the  US  and  urban  centers  on  the   Maya  Riviera.  Immigration  dramatically  in3luences  the  social  fabric  of  the  region  as  well  as   the  economy  (Until  the  recent  recession  in  the  US,  which  reduced  the  number  of  jobs  in  the  

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US  and  tourists  to  the  Maya  Riviera,  great  numbers  of  people  immigrated  for  opportunities,   real  or  imagined  and  their  remittances  have  been  an  integral  part  of  the  Mexican  economy).      

  Figure  4.  This  “Welcome  to  Santa  Elena  (Yucatán)”  sign  commissioned  by  the  town’s  municipal   government  uses  the  great  pyramid  at  Chichén  Itzá,  approximately  200  kms/125  miles  away,   to  denote  its  Maya  heritage  and  the  Golden  Gate  Bridge  to  indicate  its  binding  ties  to  the  city   where  most  residents  immigrate—San  Francisco.  Both  are  uni-ied  by  Santa  Elena’s  catholic   church,  pictured  in  the  center.       The  peninsula  is  a  very  complex  space—one  in  which  ancient  and  a  romanticized   contemporary  Maya  culture  are  commodi1ied  to  attract  and  maintain  tourism.  Yet,  despite   being  one  of  the  faces  of  tourism,  it  is  precisely  these  modern  Maya  who  8ind  they  are  not   able  to  directly  bene.it—or  bene'it  on  their  own  terms—from  tourism.       DESIGN  FOR  DEVELOPMENT  OBJECTIVES   A  three-­‐fold  goal  of  d4d  is  to  work  directly  with  people  in  communities  where  we  have  been   invited  to  explore  how  we  can  use  a  participatory  or  co-­‐design  model  to  1)  use   communication  technologies  so  people  can  have  a  role  in  how  they,  as  Maya  people,  are  

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represented  in  the  public  space;  2)  develop  innovative  and  sustainable  (i.e.,  long-­‐term)   solutions  to  problems  we  mutually  identify;  and  3)  learn  to  think  in  creative  and  strategic   ways  and  test  our  concepts  as  they  apply  to  behaviors,  actions,  and  things.  Short-��‐term   objectives  are  to  teach  all  participants  how  to  apply  participatory  design  methods  to   stimulate  local  economies  and  generate  new  employment.  Long-­‐term  objectives  are  to  teach   people  to  co-­‐design  with  each  other  and  to  develop  sustainable  solutions.  The  latter  is  one   reason  that  working  from  the  ground  up  within  the  community  is  so  critical—we  are   working  on  problems  people  in  the  community  identify  and  want  to  work  on  themselves,   regardless  of  our  participation.      

  Figure  5.  Brainstorming  at  the  workshop  of  Enrique  Mendoza  in  Noh-­Bec,  Quintana  Roo.     C O N S ID E R A T IO N S :  C O M M U N IC A T IO N  &  A C C E S S   Because  both  access  and  ability  to  use  contemporary  communication  technologies  is  rapidly   changing  and  dependent  on  place,  I  share  my  observations  on  those  that  are  the  most   relevant  to  our  collaborations  and  project  work  at  this  writing.  These  are  intended  to  frame   access,  use,  and  provide  a  basic,  understanding  of  these  technologies  in  rural  indigenous   communities  in  Yucatán  and  Quintana  Roo.    

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Mobile  phones:  Almost  every  teen  and  adult  I  know,  regardless  of  their  socioeconomic   status,  owns  a  mobile  phone.  The  price  of  a  new  non-­‐smart  phone  is  approximately  US$35   and  phones  are  generally  not  locked  to  providers.  Monthly  mobile  phone  plans  are  still   relatively  new  and  most  people  use  pay-­‐as-­‐you-­‐go  plans  that  are  easy  to  recharge  in  small   increments.  At  US$0.10/minute  for  a  phone  call,  most  people  opt  for  texting  that  is  only   US$0.10/message.       The  Internet:  Many  families,  especially  if  they  have  teenage  children,  own  a  computer,  even   families  one  might  consider  living  at  the  poverty  level.  Children  learn  to  use  them  in  school   but  most  adults  are  not  as  adept.  It  is  still  very  rare  to  have  Internet  access  at  home  because   the  cost  is  prohibitive  and  service  is  most  likely  slow.  Cyber  cafés4  are  ubiquitous,  have  fast   connections,  and  typically  costs  US$1/hour.  For  many,  this  cost  prevents  people  from  using   the  Internet  recreationally  or  from  checking  their  email  accounts  on  a  regular  basis.  Many   adults  (35+)  view  the  Internet  as  a  tool  for  younger  people  to  use.  Mexican  graphic  design   students  I  taught  at  the  Universidad  Autónoma  de  Yucatán  (2006–2007)  af(irmed  they  are   at  least  a  generation  behind  the  US,  if  not  two,  as  a  way  to  explain  why  they  are  more   technologically  savvy  than  their  parents.  Often  project  partners  don’t  use  email  and  will  ask   me  to  send  messages  through  their  sons  or  daughters.         Online  Transactions.  Banking  can  be  problematic  because  of5icial  status  (for  businesses)  and   credit  must  be  established.  To  do  this,  one  must  navigate  through  an  often-­‐cumbersome   Mexican  bureaucracy.  Paperwork  and  of3icial  forms  are  costly  and  sometimes  dif3icult  to   understand—no  matter  what  level  of  formal  education  one  has.  Services  one  might  expect   to  simplify  a  process  in  some  countries,  such  as  online  bill  paying,  are  out  of  reach  for  most   people.  Culturally,  people  do  not  trust  the  Internet  to  complete  online  transactions,   although  the  federal  government  is  beginning  to  promote  this  type  of  interaction  with   public  kiosks.       Open  Source  Software.  Learning,  teaching,  and  using  open-­‐source  software  allows  us  to   collaborate  across  physical  borders  as  well  as  computing  platforms  without  a  heavy  

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!inancial  investment.  We  have  been  successful  using  Joomla!  and  WordPress  for  website   and  blog  development  and  Google  Sketch  Up  for  product  design  and  3D  modeling.  Our   rationale  is  to  provide  people  with  tools  that  are  both  economical  and  relatively  easy  to   learn  so  they  can  communicate  using  their  own  words  and  images  instead  of  having  others   speak  for  them.  Once  people  learn  software  and  respective  practical  applications,  they  can   transfer  these  skills  to  other  projects  and  areas  of  their  lives.         Financial  capital:  While  not  a  communication  technology  per  se,  capital  directly  in6luences   development  and  communication.  Lack  of  it  is  an  obvious  obstacle  to  begin  a  new  venture.   Without  collateral,  it  is  dif1icult  to  obtain  cash  or  credit  to  invest.  In  many  countries  land  or   home  ownership  functions  as  collateral  but  in  these  rural  areas  neither  possess  market   value  to  warrant  loans.  This  leaves  people  with  few  options:  borrow  money  from  family  or   friends,  immigrate  for  employment  opportunities,  or  seek  funding  from  government   programs,  which  is  often  a  political  exchange.       P R O JE C T  W O R K  /  D E S IG N  R E S E A R C H   In  Design  Activism,  Alastair  Fuad-­‐Luke  writes,  “the  inherent  nature  of  design  as   a  human  activity  is  that  it  is,  in  general,  deeply  socially  orientated,  involving   a  variety  of  actors  in  the  chain  of  events  from  contextualizing  the   problemátique,  ideation,  conceptualization,  detailed  design,  making  or   construction,  operation  or  use,  and  after-­‐life  or  re-­‐use.  Moreover,   participation  emancipates  people  by  making  them  active  contributors  rather   than  passive  recipients.”5     Our  strategy  is  to  begin  each  project  in  the  partner  community.  By  the  time  I  arrive  with   students,  I  would  have  already  visited  the  town,  met  with  project  partners,  and  discussed   the  problems  they’re  looking  at  and  want  to  collaborate  on.  In  contemplating  working   together—and  making  a  commitment—we  all  have  some  time  to  consider  the  parameters  of   the  project  and  if  our  goals,  timing,  and  expectations  are  realistic  and  compatible.  All  of   these  considerations  will  be  discussed  again  at  the  beginning  of  project  work.  If  I  do  not   already  know  the  project  partner,  I  am  usually  engaged  with  someone  the  partner  knows.  I  

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note  that  I  am  received  and  perceived  is  based  on  a  large  part  of  who  introduces  me.  If  I  am   with  someone  who  has  earned  a  partner’s  trust  then  I  can  expect  that  trust  will  transfer  to   me.  The  role  of  social  capital—“the  sum  of  the  actual  and  potential  resources  embedded   within,  available  through,  and  derived  from  the  network  of  relationships  possessed  by  an   individual  or  social  unit.  Social  capital  thus  comprises  both  the  network  and  the  assets  that   may  be  mobilized  through  that  network”—cannot  be  underestimated.6  Practitioners  and   researchers  are  invested  with  social  capital  by  virtue  of  their  work  as  well  as  their   institutional  af+iliations  that  facilitate  linkages  to  broader  social,  intellectual,  and  economic   resources.       Since  the  late  1800s,  foreign  researchers  and  tourists,  and  later  missionaries,  have  traveled   to  the  Yucatán—for  example,  the  Carnegie  Foundation  sponsored  some  of  the  6irst   excavations  of  Maya  archaeological  sites  in  the  early  20th  century—which  points  to  the   complex  history  of  foreign  and  domestic  involvement,  agendas,  and  investments.  As  a   (foreign)  designer  working  in  this  context,  it  is  integral  for  collaborators  to  understand  the   role  of  design,  our  approach,  attitude,  and  what  we  can,  and  cannot,  bring  to  the  project.  Our   !irst  meeting  allows  us  to  establish  a  basic  understanding  of  the  project,  rapport,  and  trust,   which  will  grow  with  the  project,  to  communicate  our  attitudes  and  understand  our   approaches.  Following  this  initial  meeting,  we  are  in  communication  via  email,  telephone,  or   Skype.  Rural  culture  values  face-­‐to-­‐face  communication  that  is  also  ef(icient  and  divorced   from  the  usual  bureaucracy  one  encounters.7     Working  with  graphic  design  students,  project  partners,  and  others  on-­‐site  to  co-­‐design,  we   must  &irst  dismantle  the  traditional  and  stereotypical  notions  of  culture,  economy,   discipline,  social  status,  and  privilege.  In  order  for  us  to  be  effective  partners,  we  have  to   respect  each  other’s  worldview  and  perspective.  For  me,  this  means  placing  all  participants   on  equal  footing  so  we  can  learn  from  and  teach  each  other.  As  I  have  done  throughout  this   document,  we  refer  to  people  we  work  with  as  “partners”  and  not  as  “clients.”  We  want  to   leave  a  traditional,  but  still  often  used,  client-­‐designer  paradigm  behind  because  it  is  a   learning  and  growth  experience  for  all  involved.  We  are  careful  to  articulate  that  this—what   we  are  all  doing  here—is  an  exchange  and  not  charity.  We  do  not  give  anybody  anything— instead,  we  create  something  together.  The  expectation  is  that  all  sides  contribute  to  the  

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project.  In  fact,  we  don’t  work  for  but  with—also  an  important  distinction.  It  is  only  when   we  are  on  equal  footing  that  we  can  all  contribute  to  build  a  smart  and  healthy  project.     As  Fuad-­‐Luke  elaborates  on  co-­design,  it  is  “a  commitment  regarding  inclusion  and  power,   as  it  contests  dominant  hierarchically  orientated  top-­‐down  power  structures  [and]  requires   mutual  learning  between  the  stakeholders/actors.”8  Co-­‐design  is  an  open  process  that   encourages  participation.  This  is  true  even  in  the  design  discipline  whereby  student   designers  are  empowered  to  actively  participate  and  contribute  rather  than  rely  on  a  more   experienced  designer  or  teacher  to  lead  the  way.  An  example  of  this  is  the  Ak  Kuxtal  Sian   Ka’an9  project  where  eight  graphic  design  student-­‐participants  were  charged  with   conceptualizing,  designing,  and  leading  a  workshop  to  share  design  resources,  processes,   and  open-­‐source  software  applications  with  master  woodworkers.  Students,  working  as  a   team,  conceptualized  the  workshop  in  Florida,  talking  to  woodworkers  and  7inding   resources  online  that  they  found  of  interest,  hoping  the  woodworkers  would  feel  the  same.       Even  though  Enrique  Mendoza,  one  of  the  woodworkers,  owned  an  Internet  café,  the   practice  of  identifying  resources  and  learning  about  the  competitive  landscape  in  that  space   was  not  yet  a  part  of  his  creative  practice.  Although  their  work  was  exquisite  technically,   their  tendency  was  to  copy  what  they  saw  in  a  store,  magazine,  or  book,  or  make  a  product   based  on  a  customer’s  speci1ications.  We  conceived  of  a  workshop  to  support  the  Ak  Kuxtal   project  mission  and  empower  the  woodworkers  to  create  high  quality,  natural  products  of   their  own  design  to  sell  in  luxury  boutiques  and  hotels  on  the  Maya  Riviera.  The  purpose   was  to  elevate  the  work  through  thoughtful,  informed  design.  To  do  this,  we  had  to  explore   what  design  is  and  can  be,  as  an  activity  and  a  product.  Further  supporting  the  notion  that   access  to  information  is  one  of  the  key  obstacles  to  development,  was  their  interest  in   learning  what  others  were  making  in  the  US,  Europe,  and  Asia.       As  part  of  sharing  our  design  process,  we  created  resource  cards  with  key  design  concepts   and  examples.  Of  all  the  materials  we  presented,  it  seems  the  artisans  were  the  least   interested  in  these—  they  were  static  instead  of  dynamic  and  seemed  daunting  in  the   amount  of  textual  information  they  contained.    

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Figure  6.  Design  resource  cards.    

  Figure  7.  Listening  and  learning  about  the  process  and  products  from  Enrique  Mendoza  in   Noh-­Bec.      

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Figure  8.  Presentation  of  online  resources  during  our  creativity  workshop  in  Noh-­Bec.     Other  ways  we  fostered  dialogue  were  with  a  demonstration  of  Google’s  Sketch-­Up  where   Abby  Chryst  shared  how  they  could  mock  up  three-­‐dimensional  product  designs  and  alter   them  with  ease.  Later  that  night  she  drew  up  one  product  using  Sketch-­‐Up  so  they  could   work  on  it  the  next  day.  Morgan  Slavens  developed  a  presentation  to  take  people  through  a   general  design  process  based  on  a  recent  packaging  project  she  completed.  As  she  explained   her  process—showing  her  research  from  the  library  and  Internet,  myriad  sketches,  and   several  iterations  and  explained  what  was  happening  in  each  before  she  arrived  at  the  /inal   product—we  noted  how  their  interest  was  piqued.  Articulating  the  iterative  process,  as  a   visual  and  verbal  narrative,  allowed  the  woodworkers  to  connect  with  the  process  and  the   work.  The  process  revealed  the  importance  of  research  and  iteration  to  arrive  at  a  /inal   solution.  In  summary,  we  found  we  had  the  most  animated  responses  from  what  was   dynamic  rather  than  static,  including  very  positive  responses  from  design  process  activities.       For  the  design  students,  who  had  grown  up  with  the  Internet  and  regularly  browsed  the   web  for  resources,  connecting  with  our  woodworker-­‐partners  was  enlightening  and   motivated  the  students  to  continue  developing  their  ideas  for  sharing  the  design  process.   One  result  of  this  activity  was  to  develop  an  online  community  where  the  woodworkers   could  post  work  in  progress,  obtain  feedback  (from  the  students  and  others  close  to  their   target  market).  

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INTERACTIONS:  THE  USER   The  Yucatán  peninsula  is  cosmopolitan  space—with  a  consistent  in,lux  of  international   tourists,  workers,  students,  researchers,  and  Mayan/Mexican  culture  a)icionados.  Because   there  is  such  a  visibly  constant  mix  of  people,  it  is  easy  to  take  for  granted  that  people   understand  each  other’s  cultures,  motivations,  and  lives.    

  Figure  9.  Vendors  work  in  the  informal  economy  at  the  Chichén  Itzá  archaeological  site.       During  our  discussions  with  the  woodworkers,  it  became  clear  that,  although  they  made   products  to  sell  to  tourists,  they  did  not  know  what  motivated  people  to  purchase   something  or  the  context  in  which  it  might  be  used.  For  example,  who  would  buy  a  toy  made   from  wood?  Who  would  they  buy  it  for?  Why?  Where  would  it  be  used?  Exploring  various   different  user  scenarios  and  reviewing  other  people’s  work  shifted  us  from  making  work  in   a  vacuum  to  start  thinking  about  use  and  developing  criteria.  In  our  hands-­‐on  design   workshop  the  second  day,  we  discussed  user  scenarios.    

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Figure  10.  University  of  Florida  graphic  design  students  Laila  Simonovsky  and  Mike  McVicar   work  on  idea  generation  with  Enrique  and  Mirsta  Mendoza  using  discussion  and  sketching   methods.  Ariella  Mostkoff  records  the  process.       Creating  user  scenarios  as  short  /ilms  would  have  served  us  better  than  me  playing  the  role   of  a  tourist  because  it  would  show  someone  in  their  multiple  environments.  Seeing  how  and   where  a  product  will  be  used  builds  a  more  tangible  understanding  in  the  mind  of  the   artisan.  This  has  proven  true  with  other  projects.  For  example,  I  have  led  beekeepers   through  a  virtual  tour  of  an  upscale  supermarket  in  the  US  so  they  could  get  a  sense  of   where  their  product  could  be  placed  and  how  it  would  be  viewed  by  the  consumer.   Demonstrations  such  as  these  serve  to  make  the  product  real  and  subsequently  motivate   participants  when  they  can  tangibly  see  a  positive  future.  In  addition,  creative  processes   such  as  brainstorming  and  sketching  are  transferable  skills  and  appropriated  in  ways  that   work  within  community  contexts.  Articulating  and  critically  considering  macro  and  micro   project  issues  allowed  us  to  collectively  establish  a  dialogue,  buy-­‐in,  and  further  focus  on   the  artisans’  strategies.  The  workshop,  demonstrations,  and  materials  I  described  were   speci&ic  to  the  project  with  woodworkers  and  artisans,  but  the  value  of  sharing  visual  and   verbal  information  extends  beyond  this  project  to  inform  others.        

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Figure  11.  Carpenter  Gabriel  Aguilar  sketches  during  the  brainstorming  workshop.       Consistent  throughout  my  work  in  México  is  our  integration  of  ethnography  into  our  d4d   research  practice.  It  can  serve  to  inform  designers  about  people  and  the  environment,  and   function  as  a  way  to  generate  content.  Thinking  ethnographically,  we  are  asked  to  observe,   interact,  and  document  without  making  premature  judgments.  This  is  particularly  valuable   in  this  complex  environment  because  it  positions  us  to  learn  and  research  and  in  order  to   understand  the  needs,  goals,  desires,  and  abilities  of  the  project  partners  and  the  project   context  in  order  to  make  informed  assessments.  Photographs,  sketches,  video  and  audio   recordings,  notes  all  served  as  a  way  to  document  thoughts,  interactions,  observations,  and   questions.  Our  documentation  is  both  for  the  present  and  the  future.  We  use  these  materials   to  learn,  remember,  see  patterns,  analyze,  and  understand  the  people,  project,  and   environment—including  ourselves.  The  outcomes  of  our  projects  are  directly  informed  by   the  value  of  the  interactions  we  have  with  our  project  partners  and  each  other.     Ultimately,  it  is  this  process  of  2ieldwork  and  collaboration  that  is  necessary  to  develop   long-­‐term,  responsible,  and  appropriate  solutions  that  empower  all  participants  as  we   engage  design  for  every  one’s  development.  The  value  of  our  work  is  greater  than  the   products  we  produce—it  is  the  collaboration,  exchange,  and  learning  that  is  embedded  in   each  experience  and  the  possibilities  that  emerge.  There  is  no  substitute  for  direct   D E S I G N   F O R   D E V E L O P M E N T  

 

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involvement  and  “being  there”—it  is  in  these  personal  interactions  that  we  built  deeper,   more  meaningful  relationships  and  reveal  our  potential  and  the  potential  of  design.             BIBLIOGRAPHY   Fuad-­‐Luke,  Alastair.  Design  Activism:  Beautiful  Strangeness  for  a  Sustainable  World.  2009.   London:  Earthscan.       Nahapiet,  Janine  and  Sumantra  Ghoshal.  “Social  Capital,  Intellectual  Capital,  and  the   Organizational  Advantage.  Academy  of  Management:  The  Academy  of  Management  Review   23,2  (April  1998):  242–266.           PHOTO  CREDITS   All  photographs  were  taken  between  2005  and  2010  during  design  for  development  project   work  and  used  by  blanket  permission  of  project  participants.  A  list  of  participants  is  online   at  www.design4development.org  (see  contacts  >  designers).      

                                                                                                                1  Beginning  in  2006  I  began  working  with  Cooperativa  Lol-­‐Bal  Ché,  a  honey  cooperative  

in  Santa  Elena,  Yucatán.   2  There  are  many  Maya  languages.  Yucatec  Maya,  spoken  throughout  the  peninsula,  is   the  most  widely  spoken  Maya  language.  Maya  living  in  southern  Quintana  Roo  speak  a   slightly  different  dialect  but  originated  from  Yucatec  Maya.   3  An  ejido  is  communal  land  and  requires  a  commitment  to  the  community,  including   attending  meetings  and  participating  in  community  decisions.  It  is  usually  parceled  out  to   individuals  and  so  these  function  as  small  plots  of  land  used  for  subsistence  farming,  raising   animals,  and  beekeeping.   4  A  cyber  café  is  a  store  with  anywhere  from  two  to  20  computers  with  Internet  access   available  for  rent.  A  cyber  will  typically  offer  printing,  sell  6lash  drives,  CDs,  and  DVDs.  They   sometimes  offer  private  booths  for  long-­‐distance  phone  calls.   5  Fuad-­‐Luke,  146-­‐147.   6  Nahapiet  and  Ghoshal,  243.  Other  de6initions  of  social  capital  are  online  at   http://www.socialcapitalresearch.com.   D E S I G N   F O R   D E V E L O P M E N T  

 

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7  Author’s  YouTube  page:  Link  to  a  short  video  on  Maya  pronunciation.   8  Fuad-­‐Luke,  147.   9  Ak  Kuxtal  Sian  Ka’an,  (Ak  Kuxtal  —Maya—that  which  gives  us  life;  pronounced  kush-­‐

tol),  is  a  network  of  artisans  established  to  counter  the  systemically  low  value,  low  wages,   and  low  expectations  of  and  by  artisans  and  simultaneously  promote  environmental   stewardship  by  fostering  an  economically,  culturally,  socially,  and  environmentally   sustainable  craft  industry.  Speci3ically,  Ak  Kuxtal,  as  a  socially  and  environmentally   committed  business,  would  promote  this  new,  equitable  concept.  As  a  grassroots   organization,  Ak  Kuxtal  was  established  in  2008  as  a  collaborative  initiative  between  two   local  conservation  NGOs—Amigos  de  Sian  Ka'an  (Amigos)  and  U'yo'olche—and  a  small   group  of  diverse,  skilled,  and  experienced  artisans  living  in  close  proximity  to  the  Sian  Ka’an   Biosphere  Reserve.  Since  people  in  Amigos  and  U'yo'olche  worked  closely  with  local   artisans  prior  to  the  inception  of  the  Ak  Kuxtal  project,  the  needs  that  emerged  from  these   cumulative  interactions  inspired  this  project.    

D E S I G N   F O R   D E V E L O P M E N T  

 

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Design with Maya Communities