User Centered Design is an approach to development and innovation in industry. Innovation is used as a descriptor to refer equally to product, process, system, service, relationship, curriculum, organization, collectivity, technology, institution, and government. User Centered Design addresses the problem that many technologies are developed without the study and involvement of users or without the means to actually implement recommended changes to these technologies. User centered design has become a best practice in industry; there is now an international standard for human centered design (ISO 13407), yet it is not fully embraced due to temporal, economic and material constraints on industrial development cycles.

We work within the general framework of participatory innovation, an emerging framework for the organization of innovation processes that creates opportunities to involve the contributions of various stakeholders. Participants include, for instance, policy makers, shareholders, manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, consumers and end users.

For our understanding of innovation in the context of this project, it is important to differentiate between the ‘fields of study’ and the ‘fields of application’. The fields of study are typically sites of social interaction, such as clinical consultations with a medical professional, meetings with a hearing pedagogue or interaction in other social settings where hearing loss or unfavorable acoustic environments emerge as a relevant difficulty. The results of such interactional studies will inform ‘innovation’. But the potential fields of application for innovation might be any of the areas listed above. It is frequently the case that ethnographic or conversation analytic studies of institutional settings (such as clinical sites) can inform the practice of clinical professionals. In such a case the field of study and field of application coincide. Real world studies are also likely to be relevant to the design of many other things: new public health policies, new clinical training procedures, new means of technology delivery, new forms of access to public services, new organizational partnerships, new financial provisions, or new kinds of devices. In the case of Hearing Aids Communication, we are looking at, but also beyond, the field of study as a potential field of application. All of these issues can be identified in the actual interactions during health care consultations as relevant to the interactants. Knowledge generated about them provides us with criteria for what issues to select for advancement.