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Power dynamics 4/5 (1)

Exploring power dynamics in Intangible Cultural Heritage documentation

stake holders poster example

Keywords: stakeholders; power dynamics; benefits; power.

Aims and Rationale

The purpose of this exercise is encouraging students to engage and learn about some of the moral implications and ethical issues of documenting ICH. By the use of a local instance of a ICH documentation project, students can more easily focus on the variety of stakeholders in such projects, as well as their places in the distribution of power/benefits.

HCI – oriented reflections can be fostered by the use of sample stakeholders such as “designers” and “developers”.

Learning Outcomes and Associated Areas of Knowledge

Identify the range of stakeholders involved in the area of ICH

Evaluate the role of stakeholders in the area of ICH

Identify a range of ethical and moral dilemmas associated with ICH documentation where stakeholders play a role

21st Century skills

  • Collaboration and Communication
  • Critical Thinking
  • Ethical Literacy


Large piece of flipchart/A3 paper per group, post-it notes, marker pens.

How to

It is important to set up this as a group activity so that the students can share and compare their initial thoughts and produce more composite thoughts. Additionally, students need to be given sufficient time to discuss their understanding. Instructors may sit back or alternatively, in more quiet groups, they can advise using open questions.

It is good practice to engage students towards exploring power dynamics and politics around ICH self-documentation using technology with little information given to the students prior to the activity . The reason for this is to limit any influence on the perceptions of students, who can participate by presenting unpressured representations. The ICH documentation lecture beforehand may be useful, depending on students’ background/previous knowledge.

The proposed activity is loosely inspired by “The Control and Influence Model” proposed by Stephen Covey in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Each group is prompted to draw two sets of concentric circles (one for power and the other for benefits), and then place post-it notes representing stakeholders in ICH project of choice.


Some students may experience some difficulty in seeing the relevance of this exercise within an academic context.  Understanding the complexity of the relationships between stakeholders is not an easy task, and it is sometimes overlooked even by navigated researchers. To put the students at ease with the exercise, it is important to emphasize the potential role that the students themselves can have in the distribution of power and benefits when taking the role of designers and/or researchers.

Assessment for Learning

The learning outcomes and skills associated with this activity can be assessed during and after the main activity.

During the activity, open questions which prompt students to explain why they have placed certain stakeholders in certain part of the model and the relationship between them can assist them in evaluating their own and their peers’ decision making.

After students have placed their stakeholders in the model, group presentations allow students to describe the particular stakeholders involved in their ICH project and demonstrate the critical thinking involved in identifying the ethical and moral dilemmas involved in their particular case. Students can be encouraged to consider their own decision-making in light of hearing from others and share any changes in opinions based on these new ideas.

Assessment 'How to'

Group presentations can be held at the end of the activity, in which the populated models are submitted to the review of the peers and the instructors. Instructors can moderate and provide their input if they believe that crucial themes are overlooked. Sample questions are:

  • Where are you in the graph?
  • Why did you put this stakeholder in this particular level of power/benefits?
  • Why haven’t you included this stakeholder?
  • Have you had any change in your opinions after the presentation?

Please rate this activity:

Download Word File of activity in English
Student Assignment Editable Word File


  • Useful for encouraging critical thinking about power/benefits in ICH projects.
  • Students may need to get familiar with the concepts of top-down and bottom-up beforehand.
  • Students may need to get familiar with the concept of power beforehand.
  • Assess the learning through a group presentation.