This chapter engages with the idea that instead of trying to satisfy the users’ elusive particularities, designers should offer them tools to create their own designs. From the 1970s speculations on computational techniques for user participation in design, to current design for design empowerment endeavors, technological renderings of this idea do not escape controversy around the delivery of their empowering claims. The question remains: Who designs? The “empowered” users? The tools and/or techniques that facilitate the process? The designer of the tools and/or techniques? I propose that technological mediation, construed here as the mode of agency distribution among users, technologies, and their designers, provides a productive viewpoint from which to analyze and critique techno-centric proposals of design for user empowerment. With this hypothesis as point of
departure, I offer a parallel reading of proposals for technologically mediated user participation in design, presented in the 1971 “Design Participation” conference of the Design Research Society, and recent theorizations of technological mediation in science and technology studies (STS) and the philosophy of technology.