User engagement in Living Labs : Issues and concerns

Sammanfattning: User engagement and the participatory design approach are well-established in information systems research for many years, and several studies have investigated the challenges of user engagement in the innovation processes. The majority of these studies have discussed participatory design activities – specifically user engagement –in an organizational context. From this perspective, user engagement within an organization employs (relatively) mature technology, but the users are exclusively employees with certain levels of expertise and commitment. Therefore, the full spectrum of users’ perspectives is widely neglected. Accordingly, the purpose of this thesis is to investigate and discuss how the process of voluntary user engagement in real-life contexts (in this study, living labs) is shaped when the innovations are not yet mature. The objective is to propose a framework that addresses issues of sustainable user engagement and commitment by including the users’ perspectives.  To this end, the following research questions are further explored:RQ1: What aspects of innovation have an impact on the process of user engagement?RQ2: What aspects of the engagement context have an impact on the process of user engagement?RQ3: What aspects related to the users themselves have an impact on the process of user engagement?In order to meet the purpose of this study, the living lab was used as the context of participatory design activities in three different studied cases. The first living lab case was called “USEMP” and concerned testing and evaluation of a digital innovation with voluntary users. The second living lab case, “UNaLab”, incorporated ten European cities, aiming to develop nature-based solutions to problems in these cities following a living lab approach. The third living lab case, “U4IoT”, was designed to facilitate the engagement of five European Large-Scale Pilots with (current and future) users throughout the use and adoption of the Internet of things (IoT).This thesis is based on a qualitative interpretive case study approach. Beyond conducting two rounds of literature review, this research used multiple data collection methods within the context of the studied living lab cases. These included two rounds of semi-structured interviews with the living lab and innovation experts (24 interviews), four international workshops with 62 participants, and two rounds of open-ended questionnaires with 41 participants. A high-level analysis of the results from the three cases was also conducted through qualitative data coding, in which the results of all appended papers were reinterpreted, reorganized, synthesized and presented.This study contributes to the research on participatory design in the information systems research field by focusing on voluntary user engagement in living labs when the innovation is not yet mature. In so doing, this dissertation provides the Plan–Act–Reflect user engagement framework, which investigates the issues of user engagement and incorporates the perspectives of both users and innovation and living lab experts. The analysis of the results illustrated that user engagement in the living lab context is not a linear process with pre-determined entry and exit points. Instead, it is an iterative process characterized by complex interplay between different engagement phases, including cognitive engagement (plan), realize engagement (act), and engagement commitment (reflect). The results of this study could help participatory design practitioners, living lab organizers, project planners and decision makers on a larger scale – such as that of urban living labs – to understand not only how to engage users in the innovation processes but also how to keep them engaged. This may be accomplished through every part of the process, from user preparation to implementation to testing and adoption of innovations.