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PHD-DESIGN  March 2008

PHD-DESIGN March 2008

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Subject:

Re: Master of Design Futures & Design + Social Sciences

From:

Terence Love <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Terence Love <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 20 Mar 2008 10:07:38 +0900

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Hi Eduardo,

Thank you for your challenging messages.

It's conceptually a long draw, but I was making much the same type of point
- not the same point but of the same type.

In suggesting systems-based designers/design researchers might become the
new design heroes, I was pointing to a similar problem to that of the
Future/Past triangles and the way an individual position can be
reconceptualised as in the roman writer and the vizigoth you mention. My own
favourite is  the translation of the message to an ancient Egyptian ruler of
a older personal adviser " Things are not what they were in my day...
Children used to respect their parents, be quiet and..." Some things change
little.

In suggesting systems-based designers/design researchers might become the
new design heroes, I was also being more prosaic. With hindsight and good
investigative tools, it has emerged that many or most design decisions are
wrong when they involve complex socio-technical systems. This extends even
to simple consumer objects - because they become part of our individual
socio-technical lives (technical because we use designed objects) in our
ecologically complex environments. 

The problem first emerged most clearly in the design of management and
planning solutions. Sterman and others documented this. The problem appears
to be that as humans we are limited in intuitional cognition to
understanding systems with 1 or 2 feedback loops. It is relatively trivial
to demonstrate this - regardless of individuals' education, brain power and
intuitional abilities. Most designed things involve systems with many more
feedback loops. Hence, the are misunderstood. The misunderstandings lead to
designs that fail badly in complex ways.

Why do we not see this? The reason seems to be that when we wear the hats of
users and critical analysts, we  have the same limitations as when we are
wearing the hat of designer.

We see the simplest aspects only. Our intuition interprets things only in
terms of our limited perception of feedback (and feed forward) of 1 or 2
loops. Hence we design things and programs whose failures emerge in our
wider environmental, social and technological contexts as ecological
collapse, war and technology-based health systems. Yet , we cannot see this
easily. Out futures and past pictures are both under-understood.

Why do we not understand the failures of design? If the above is right, we
cannot easily see them, and, in our 'blindness' we willing participate in
unseen feedback loops that cause adverse future consequences,  because to
us, it appears that what we are doing is intuitively right. Lessing outlines
these issues in a more literary format in Shikasta, The Marriages of Zones
Three, Four and Five, and Sentimental Agents of the Volyon Empire.

How do we know things are wrong when we are designing?

At the moment, the only seriously sucessful tools in this area are the
design tools from the systems realms that identify counterintuitive
outcomes. These tools (as yet) do not predict outcomes or best designs. They
simply tell us which way solutions will change if we change something else.
That is, they indicate which way the feedback loops act and how strongly.
Experience of design practitioners using these tools is that usually things
emerge as very different or opposite from what we  'intuit'. 

Heroes rescue. It may be systems designers will 'rescue' us from our design
traditions of blindness.

Bahaudin (in Shah) describes many early techniques for avoiding this
blindness in designers. Shah also describes many old stories that tease out
the factors in the above situation: the story of the water of sanity and the
story of the whole person in the land of cripples spring to mind. Rich
stories that have more depth than simply understanding feedback loops.

Best wishes for a happy Easter and Nooruz  - for problem solving nuts and
the new year,

Terry

===
Dr. Terence Love
Love Web Services
Tel/Fax: +61 (0)8 9305 7629
Mobile: +61 (0)434975 848
[log in to unmask]
www.lovewebservices.com
===





-----Original Message-----
From: PhD-Design - This list is for discussion of PhD studies and related
research in Design [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Eduardo
Corte Real
Sent: Thursday, 20 March 2008 12:49 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Master of Design Futures & Design + Social Sciences

Dear Terry and others on Futurabilia,

May I call your attention also to Jorge Luis Borges' "The Garden of Forking
Paths" that you may find at
http://courses.essex.ac.uk/lt/lt204/forking_paths.htm

In the sense of Molinism, a universe as described by Borges in which Time is
constantly forking creating parallel and intersecting futures would be a
Godless Universe.

Somewhat we believe that the forks are upside down compared with those of
the Borgean Garden. We intuitively think that the Past ramifies out of us. 
My parents decided to marry, my grand parents also and so on until you think
of millions of ancestors. This is difficult to match with the idea of a
biological Eve or Adam. In the same way we think that we the universe is a
sphere of which we are the centre. It is very hard to accept that if we look
north far enough we will see the Big Bang and if we look south far enough we
will see the same point. Being in the centre and in the surface of a sphere
at the same time is very itchy. Borges addressed this problem in another
tale called The Zahir. The Zahir was an object with opposite faces visible
at the same time. This topological oddity is only odd because of Time; it
has nothing to do with topology.

One interesting thing about 2001 Space Odyssey, in Kubrick's version is that
the Future is treated as a Future. I mean: the suits are concordant with the
space ships and all as if all things evolved at the same time, the same with
Metropolis and so many other science fiction movies before. Blade Runner was
the first film that I remember that treated the Future as a Present. We know
about the Present that the objects of the Past last, endure and mingle with
the objects of the Future. So a Present is a complex place, in a sense
similar to the Borgean Garden with lots of parallel futures lasting.

I remember reading in Robert S. Lopez "The Birth of Europe" a quotation from
a Roman writer in the late 300's complaining that the world seem drained out
without any resources left. In fact, the Western Roman World collapsed soon
after. Borges tells us another story (I don't recall the title) about a
Visigoth that joined the defenders of Ravenna betraying their own just
because he found the beauty of the roman civilization. I'm worried about
your design heroes, Terry, either they will find a new dark age and their
knowledge will be useless, or the world will find a way of regenerating very
fast and they will also be useless.  Maybe the heroes might be the ones that
will help the Romans defending Ravenna.



Cheers,

Eduardo

----- Original Message -----
From: "Terence Love" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, March 18, 2008 1:28 PM
Subject: Re: Master of Design Futures & Design + Social Sciences


> Clive,
>
> I feel you are right to encourage us to congratulate new graduate programs
> in design for sustainability/design futures.
>
> Increasingly these new programs are 'negotiating practice and  theory' via
> theoretical and analytical discourse in increasingly complex ways. Many
> postgraduate offerings teaching design now do so in ways that go beyond
> sustainability to include most other arenas of human interest for the 
> future
> across the Humanities, Sciences, Business-related fields and Public
> Governance.
>
> In this congratulatory spirit, we should also congratulate other design
> courses that fit this mold.
>
> Three groups come to mind.
>
> Post grad programs like the  Masters in Environmental Architecture at the
> Research Institute for Sustainable Energy;  delivered on the basis of a
> great breadth of practice-based, theoretical, analytical and philosophical
> discourse.
>
> New programs of engineering institutes that focus on design across a wide
> variety of human perspectives and discourses. Many encompass curricula of
> 'Art and Design' degrees alongside social and philosophical dialogue and
> engineering analysis. In these courses, there is always a strong focus on
> futures. In many, the focus on sustainability and environmental issues is
> also strong. These developments are to be congratulated. The 
> transformation
> of these programs has been steady and the significant changes overlooked 
> by
> many design researchers.
>
> Sukanta raised the importance of a systems perspective. To be 
> congratulated
> most are those postgraduate design courses that draw on systems 
> philosophies
> such as those of Forrester and others at MIT. Remember 'Limits to 
> rowth'  -
> a philosophical and practical foundation of sustainability and 
> environmental
> design based on systems philosophy? These systems-based courses in design
> (stand up you know who you are)  assume that design decisions  are mostly
> wrong  - especially when done intuitively in complex situations. Perhaps 
> the
> graduates of these  programs may be the new design (and design research)
> heroes.
>
> Thoughts?
>
> Best wishes,
> Terry
> ____________________
> Dr. Terence Love FDRS, AMIMechE
> Design-focused Research Group, Design Out Crime Research Unit,
> Associate Researcher at Digital Ecosystems and Business Intelligence
> Institute
> Research Associate at Planning and Transport Research Centre
> Curtin University, PO Box U1987, Perth, Western Australia 6845
> Mob: 0434 975 848 Fax +61(0)8 9305 7629 (home office) [log in to unmask]
> Visiting Research Fellow, Institute of Entrepreneurship and Enterprise
> Development
> Management School, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK.
> Visiting Professor, Member of Scientific Council,
> UNIDCOM/IADE, Lisbon, Portugal
> ____________________
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: PhD-Design - This list is for discussion of PhD studies and related
> research in Design [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Clive
> Dilnot
> Sent: Tuesday, 18 March 2008 12:48 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: Master of Design Futures & Design + Social Sciences
>
> All,
> I would have thought that for most people on this list the development of
> new graduate programs in design for sustainability/design futures  would 
> be
> a matter for congratulation and not for a somewhat snide comment (Phd list
> 3/15).
>
> The promotional language used to announce a program is of scarce import.
> What matters is content, and since in this case the DPP papers and its
> editor/s have  already developed a highly  significant level of 
> theoretical
> and analytical discourse around design futures the prospect of a graduate
> program which attempts the messy but  potentially rewarding business of
> negotiating practice and  theory in these areas is a matter of great
> interest. How does theory work to inform practice? How does
> theoretically-informed practice work to create "projects" which challenge
> the existing limits and models of understanding? Setting in chain that
> relationship, and especially in relation to sustainability, is key to 
> future
> practice and study in design.
>
> Programs attempting to explore these issues should therefore in principle
> be welcomed.
>
> Be that as it may, the questions, and challenges, posed by Uma Chandru are
> much more interesting, for they indicate  the major paradigm shift in 
> design
> studies over the next decades which is the shift from the attempt to model
> design  quasi-scientifically or technologically to a situation in which
> design enters into a  much deeper and more complex dialogue (and I stress
> this word) with the social sciences as a whole.
>
> There are  numerous straws in the wind that suggest that is the case, both
> in practice (the increasing use of social scientific methodologies,
> especially in research) and theoretically (as the DPP papers indicate) It 
> is
> very difficult to see how it could not be so. Design is after all
> endemically the process through which the social is mediated in relation 
> to
> artifice and artificial systems.
>
> But as Uma Chandra's questions indicate, establishing such a relation or 
> set
> of relations will not be easy--especially at the theoretical level (the
> pragmatics of practice will often allow for more expedient adjustment of
> contrasting ways of acting than will entrenched theoretical models). All
> this points to the fact that, at present, the design analytical community
> has almost no adequate "institutional" means of exploring these
> relations--or of developing depth-expertise in design for social 
> scientists
> or of the social sciences for designers. What might ask whether this is 
> not
> a project that should taken up by the Design Research Society and its
> equivalents?
>
> Clive Dilnot
>
>
>
>
>
> Clive Dilnot
> Professor of Design Studies
> Dept. Art and Design Studies, Rm 609
> Parsons School of Design,
> New School University,
> 2w 13th St.
> New York NY 10011
>
> T.1-212-229-8916 x1481 

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