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For a Special Issue on

Remote Data Collection Methods (RDCM): Making sense of the messiness in fieldwork for co-design

Abstract deadline
15 January 2024

Manuscript deadline
29 May 2024

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Special Issue Editor(s)

Susan Evans, School of Design, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
[email protected]

Krity Gera, Royal College of Art
[email protected]

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Remote Data Collection Methods (RDCM): Making sense of the messiness in fieldwork for co-design

This special edition aims to increase understanding of the opportunities to use remote data collection methods (RDCM), in the context of co-design research (involving social interactions). Co-design within research and practice is mainly associated with face-to-face interactions where participants are involved in the design process in situ. In participatory collaborative projects involving communities this has largely been the pre-requisite. However, in recent years, there has been rising interest in collaborative design processes using remote methods for data acquisition, which has given way to incorporation of digital means and technologies. Some examples include the use of social media platforms, such as WhatsApp, or context-specific local versions, to gather data such as, a longitudinal agricultural intervention in Asia to understand stakeholder relationships between stakeholders and the non-human or Nature experiences from children in Bhutan (Om et al., 2021); other examples include the use of WhatsApp and Google Maps Timeline (to get GPS travel data) by engaging with urban marginalized women to understand the relationship between their social and spatial mobility in India (Gera, 2022).

Such examples which draw from RDCM as the primary data source contribute to a knowledge resource in multiple ways. Besides understanding the challenges linked to onboarding, establishing trust with participants, sense-making and analysis of the collected information, they present fresh perspectives and unexplored opportunities for design research and associated practices. RDCM in the context of co-design research, can bring focus to different kinds of engagements and interactions with the participants whilst not ignoring communities that have limited access to technology, such as the marginalized and the vulnerable groups. The reason for landing on the topic of RDCM has been spurred by the first-hand experience of conducting fieldwork between pre and during Covid19 Pandemic.

In the recent past the ability to implement RDCM has increased exponentially as supported by the rise of distributed networking and the increasing scope of digital apps, including social media, as humanity lives more and more in a digital world (Dilnot, 2017). However, since the introduction of ethnographic and participatory research in the 1970’s (Ehn, 2008), design research studies have benefitted from first-person observation of people’s everyday lives and experiences: with other people, non-human actants, spatially and temporally. In this manner design has been able to get at the whys and hows, to understand the complex reality of the world in which people live their lives and to design empathically (see Mattelmäki, 2008; Mattelmäki et al., 2014 for further discussion on empathetic design).

In this respect, historically, RDCM has not been a primary data source for design research. When used, RDCM was more likely to be integrated with traditional and in-person data collection approaches. Yet with the unexpected and unprecedented change in the way we live our lives as a reaction to the presence and spread of Covid19: as witnessed by government and business lockdowns and the inability to travel or meet people face-to-face in situ; the ability to conduct immersive design research with in-person interactions became rare. This takes place in a time when design research explores issues as characterized by uncertainty and unknowns, for systemic transformations (Griggs et al., 2013). Design is guided by abductive reflection, listen to others’ personal expressions and not impose our perspective on others, where creativity is required to explore systems relationality in attempts to understand the emerging complex societal and technical situations and crises. For this reason, design research methods were reorientated to reconsider the role of remote and digitally captured data, which, for many researchers, became the major source of field study. The messiness of the research process set within the said context presented several challenges to the researchers and practitioners. However, at the same time this co-design approach to RDCM opened a plethora of otherwise unimagined alternate approaches to conducting field research.

It is in response to this turn in RDCM, where this special edition, aims to contribute to increase understanding of remote data acquisition within the context of co-design research to reveal insights into novel methods and methodologies for future design research and practice. Against this backdrop, case studies of interest set new values and visions for the wellbeing of people and beyond; construct interventions in collaboration with diverse stakeholders, that enable the researcher to reflect, co-create and build on future visions (Koskinen et al., 2011). In this respect proposed design concepts, innovations and principles are designed around people and their interactions with other people, non-human actants and experiences (Kumar, 2012). In this manner, case studies reveal understandings of people relationally through a new frame.

This call for papers seeks to strengthen and contribute towards a network of methodological examples using RDCM within the context of co-design, for research, practice and education. To achieve this, the special issue invites submissions that respond to one or more of the topics below:

  • RDCM contribution to (qualitative, quantitative and/or mixed) co-design approaches
  • RDCM selection, associated methodology, approaches for collaborative data organization and analysis
  • RDCM impacts on future co-design practice and education
  • Collaborative mapping and understanding the complex reality of the world through RDCM
  • Ethics of moving from in-person interactions to RDCM co-design methods
  • Exploring pluriversality within co-designed RDCM
  • Emerging innovative approaches in collaborative RDCM

Submission Instructions

We invite 1000 word extended abstracts that align with this special issue call for papers. These should be sent by email to [email protected]  (The Hong Kong Polytechnic University) and [email protected]  (Royal College of Art, London) by Monday 15th January 2024 (AoE) in MS word (.doc or .docx). Abstracts will be reviewed by the Joint Guest Editors.

Following an initial evaluation of the abstracts, full manuscripts will be invited from selected authors, with a brief review appended. Once submitted, these will be subject to the normal review procedure of the Journal.


13th  November 2023     Launch of call

15th January 2024           Deadline of submission for 1000-word abstracts

28th February 2024         Post-review notification of decisions on abstracts

29th May 2024                 Submission of full manuscripts

15th August 2024             Post-review notification of decisions on full manuscripts

9th October 2024       Deadline for the submission for revised manuscripts

21st November 2024       Final selected manuscripts to production

December 2024              Publication of special issue


Important: Manuscripts should be prepared according to guidelines which can be found on the Journal website. All submissions should be made online at the CoDesign Manuscript Central site. Authors submitting to CoDesign journal for the first time will need to create an account. Instructions on how to do this can be found on the same website. All published articles will undergo rigorous peer review, based on the Joint Guest Editors’ initial screening and anonymous refereeing by independent expert reviewers.

Any enquiries regarding the call may be directed to Susan Evans ([email protected]) or Dr. Krity Gera ([email protected]).

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