Holding on to dissensus: Participatory interactions in security design


  • Claude P.R. Heath Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Peter A. Hall Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London.
  • Lizzie Coles-Kemp Royal Holloway, University of London


Recent high-profile cyber-attacks affecting the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK have brought into focus the fact that data, devices, and people are so intermingled that we now need a new way of approaching everyday security that provides an account of place. The assumption until now has been that the security of the individual will follow from technical security and that designing for security requires purely technological solutions. Our creative engagement method puts the human security of actors in the foreground, ensuring that actors who may ordinarily be marginalized may have their perspectives taken into account. The creative methods used include participatory physical modelling to co-design representations of what constitutes ontological security in the everyday for communities. LEGO and other materials allow participants to physically model matters of concern as tangible scenarios, using colored bricks to encode actors, infrastructure, and the movement of data. In this paper, a single LEGO model, depicting an internet-protocol home-banking service, is described in detail. A number of playful and agonistic interactions between our participants are examined through a place-based lens, using descriptive concepts from ontological and autonomous design, an approach designed to tease apart different aspects of our results. This reveals how a community constructs place, the perspectives and horizons of actors, and networks of resilience. We find that participants achieve positive insight into these scenarios by testing out the ways in which they can be broken down by antagonists and adversaries. Participants sustain a space of contestation in which dissensus is established and anticipation of breakdown can be played with.

Keywords: ontological design, autonomous design, ontological security, co-design, LEGO.

Author Biographies

Claude P.R. Heath, Royal Holloway, University of London

Department of Mathematics/ Information Security Group

Peter A. Hall, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London.

Graphic Communication Design Programme

Lizzie Coles-Kemp, Royal Holloway, University of London

Department of Mathematics/ Information Security Group






Special Issue: Autonomía - Design strategies for enabling design process