Cindy van den Bremen
Participatory Sensemaking (De Jaegher & Di Paolo, 2007), is a theory which explains sensemaking as continuous embodied interactions between people in a shared action space. Sensemaking is the natural activity of an organism that tries to sustain its own identity in a dynamic environment. In interactions with others, sensemaking becomes a participatory process grounded in embodied action, in a shared space. Instead of “a detached individual trying to figure out the other”, the idea is that social interaction is a coordination between two or more individuals. The coordination in turn influences the individual behaviours of the participants. For example, this concept formed the basis of the PhD thesis of Phillémonne Jaasma, to develop [X] Changing Perspectives, interactive tables to facilitate the communication between citizens, local governance and other private and public parties.
A lot of today’s design challenges require a multitude of people to address them. More and more, we are developing designs that support these collaboration processes and facilitate people to make sense of the situation together. Participatory sensemaking offers you concepts and the awareness to address the subtle mechanism between people to make sense together.
De Jaegher, H. and Di Paolo, E. (2007). Participatory sense-making: An enactive approach to social cognition. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 6(4), 485-507.
Jaasma, P. (2018). Exchanging perspectives: Designing for public sphere (Doctoral thesis, Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands). Retrieved from
Jaasma, P., van Dijk, J., Frens, J., and Hummels, C. (2017). On the role of external representations in designing for participatory sensemaking. In M. Bruns Alonso, and E. Ozcan (Eds.), Proceedings of the Conference on Design and Semantics of Form and Movement – Sense and Sensitivity, DeSForM 2017 (pp. 281-295, Chapter 21). London, UK: InTech.