Credit: Andonian Timothée / Iméra

Joanna Saad-Sulonen

Disciplines: ArchitectureArtDesign
Title and home institution: Associate professor at the IT University of Copenhagen
Category of Fellowship: Research residency
Chair: Structural Transformations and Institutional Dynamics in the Francophonie – AUF/Iméra Chair
Research program: Interdisciplinary Explorations
Residency length: February – July 2023
Interview with Joanna Saad-Sulonen, researcher in residence at Iméra (2022-23) (FR)

Research project

Community IT (CommIT)

Summary of the research project

The CommIT project is a first step in consolidating a comparative study between the North and South of Europe on the design-in-use and infrastructuring of ecologies of digital artifacts and services by self-organised, volunteer-based urban communities, to shape information infrastructures to support their needs. By design-in-use and infrastructuring, I refer to the continuous processes of choosing, using, adapting, and combining digital technologies, as studied in participatory design and Computer Supported Cooperative Work literature. 

The project builds on and continues my earlier work on this subject in Denmark and Finland. The urban communities I have worked with and studied there were driven by a desire to engage in sustainable production and consumption, often as a reaction to, or because of a sensitivity towards, the unfolding climate crisis. They took part in urban gardening for producing their own herbs and vegetables or in the creation of a grassroot service for directly connecting with local organic. For the CommIT project at Iméra, I would like to put in place a similar empirical research study, based on a combined ethnographic and participatory design study in the Aix-Marseille region. I will combine the empirical study with a theoretical exploration of the links between participation in design as understood in northern Europe (with the legacy of Scandinavian PD tradition) and in France (with the ergonomics tradition), hence my collaboration with Professor Nathalie Bonnardel and her colleagues at the PsyCLE Center and the Institute of Creativity and Innovation (InCIAM) at the Aix Marseille University.


Joanna Saad-Sulonen (Doctor of Arts, Master of Arts, Bachelor of Architecture) is a Finnish-Lebanese associate professor currently working at the IT University of Copenhagen in Denmark. Her expertise lies at the intersection of design, the digitalisation of services, and participation. She has, since 2005, been active in research projects at the national (Finland and Denmark), Nordic, and European levels. She has 15 years experience in the domain of participatory design. 

Joanna is interested in the topic of participation, particularly in the way civic participation intersects with participation in the design of digital services and technology. She is curious about possibilities for commons-based and communal IT as well as understanding the processes of participatory design as they unfold over time and how they may intersect with e.g. governance as well and commoning processes. Empirically, Joanna has studied the way groups of citizens self-organise around topics of interests (e.g. urban collectives interested in alternative ways of producing and consuming food), how they use information technologies for that purpose, and what type of design work is at hand in such configurations. Her theoretical and conceptual framework draws from Scandinavian participatory design, design research, the commons, and computer supported collaborative work.

Appels à candidature

Les résidences de recherche que propose l’Iméra, Institut d’études avancées (IEA) d’Aix-Marseille Université, s’adressent aux chercheurs confirmés – académiques, scientifiques et/ou artistes. Ces résidences de recherche sont distribuées sur quatre programmes (« Arts & sciences : savoirs indisciplinés », « Explorations interdisciplinaires », « Méditerranée » et « Utopies nécessaires »).