Reflecting on Usership

What are the everyday user’s rights, privileges and liberties? How does each of us intersect with usership?
450 (inc. GST)


The course begins on August 25nd, 2021. It concludes on September 30, 2021. There will be regular batches of the course in a rolling fashion. 
Discussion 01: August 25nd, 4:00 PM, 2021
Discussion 02: August 26th. 6:00 PM, 2021
Discussion-based contextualising session: September 2nd, 6:00 PM, 2021
Discussion 03: September 9th, 6:00 PM, 2021
Discussion 04: September 16th, 6:00 PM, 2021
Discussion 05: September 23rd, 6:00 PM, 2021
Discussion 06: September 30th, 6:00 PM, 2021

This course will delve deeper into establishing the philosophical understanding of what it means to use something. It will go beyond the practical and work-oriented concern of User Centred Design (UCD).

To do this — the context of this course has been made broader than User Interface (UI) design. The projects include a usability study of Indian cities and or online learning.

I feel users are people who are typically relegated no agency in the product life cycle today. They only receive the benefit of the product and offer participation and membership in the community surrounding the product. Users are sometimes consumers. When they have an extended role in the product lifecycle, they maybe prosumers. Prosumers labour without expecting a reward that equals the value of their labour. They get willingly exploited in exchange for functionality. The functionality often offers them a critical use value which is much more desirable than the displeasure of being exploited. We will explore the narrative of this transition.

Without being critical of the user role, we can try to appreciate it. The user’s compact with the designer is specific and limited. Which frees her from many responsibilities which would get in the way of attending to her own plans and priorities for putting the product or service to use. And this is an important point. Only if the user is free from the responsibility of improving the product will she be able to effectively give an authentic use case to the product and genuinely put it to test. Every use of a product or service is a test. And every time a test is failed, the user starts searching for alternative ways to fulfil their requirement or need. Products or services really want to be connected to authentic requirements or needs. And when this connection does not happen — a diagnosis of the problem needs to be done. Why do some products never find users?

It will invariably be found that products or services have not been put to use because the actual use-case has not been understood well enough. Because it has not been understood well, the product or service has not been given any specific features to deal with the unforeseen use-case. It has not been designed well in that sense. Not designed for the real world. Users and use-cases belong to the real world. Far away from the ideal world in which all products and services have passionate users.

Users who are not simple users and do not like to have an ordinary compact with the designer of the product may assume the role of prosumers. Prosumers are expert users who have an expanded set of skills and capabilities. They like to improve or at least customise the tools they use. And for this freedom they prioritise tools which are open. They even ascribe a moral value around the granting of freedom by the designers. But the important distinction to be made here is the difference between users who desire ease of use and functionality to solve problems in other parts of their lives and the users who require customised tools with functionality suited to them.

In this distinction, we will call the first set of users ordinary users. We know the second set of users as prosumers. When ordinary users need extra features in the tools they use, they file a feature request and hope that a lot of other users also need their feature so that the designers include it in the feature roadmap. When prosumers require extra features, they either hack or modify (if the designers have granted that freedom) the product.

The former is ordinary product development as we know it, the latter is open source product development — as of now seen in software and hardware both. How can we further understand open source product development in the context of UCD?

The course process will involve discussions, activities and a final project.

Facilitated by Prayas Abhinav

Portrait of Prayas Abhinav

Prayas Abhinav is a writer, teacher and entrepreneur. He has worked in the last few years on numerous pieces of speculative fiction, software, games, interactive installations, public interventions and curatorial projects.
He has written extensively on poetic thought as a form of lingual communication. He contributed to research and projects at northeastwestsouth (n.e.w.s) (Amsterdam, NL). He has conducted workshops at CEPT University (Ahmedabad), Dutch Art Institute (Arnhem, NL), MICA (Ahmedabad) and National Institute of Design (Ahmedabad & Bangalore). In the past he led the Centre for Experimental Media Arts (CEMA) at the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore. Across the last year and a half he drove the development of a volunteerism project at Ahmedabad University.
He has developed his research and practice with the support of fellowships by Sarai, Openspace, CEMA and TED. He has been in residencies at Khoj (India), Coded Cultures (Austria) and dis-locate (Japan). He has shared his work at festivals including Transmediale, 48c, Futuresonic, ISEA and Wintercamp.
Prayas Abhinav is currently teaching a User Centred Design based course at Anant National University. 
B2 Shree Krishna Apartments,
Behind LAD Society,
Nr Judges Bungalows,
Ahmedabad – 380054
M: 9825406131

What Will I Learn?

  • Think of new equitable and fair usership contexts.
  • Segment your user-base into different kinds of users and learn to address their needs differently.
  • Fine-tune the products and services you offer.
  • Unpack and zoom into the concept of the user and develop novel kinds of usership.

Topics for this course


Introduction to Usership

Read, summarise and discuss 01

Unpacking the idea of ownership

Why empathy?

What does usability mean?

Usership beyond the designer’s vision

Speculative use and science fiction

Projects (choose any one)

Course Details

  • Level: Intermediate
  • Categories: Design
  • Total Hour: 25h
  • Total Enrolled: 2
  • Last Update: September 24, 2021

Material Includes

  • 6 readings
  • 1 audio book chapter
  • 11 exercises
  • Six discussions
  • 1 final project


  • Curiosity to expand on the concept and context of the user

Target Audience

  • Designers
  • User Experience Designers
  • Developers
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Humanities students

About your interests

What do you want to learn? How do you want to enrich yourself?