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PHD-DESIGN  2000

PHD-DESIGN 2000

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Subject:

Theory & originality

From:

"Johann van der Merwe" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Johann van der Merwe

Date:

Thu, 24 Aug 2000 10:17:37 +0200

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (18 lines)

Rosan et al
You need not fear theoretical knowledge being hegemonic. In the political sense (Gramsci) hegemony would seem to be equated with power relations and domination, and often exclusively so, as Foucault and Lyotard would have us believe. I prefer Norman Fairclough's version which equates hegemony as much with leadership as possible dominance. In design theory this concept could be a positive one, since a design outcome necessitates structure and some form of "leadership" along the way, a form of structure that could be seen as "dominant" at that time, if only for the sake of deciding which way to jump - thereby leading to a conclusion which quite obviously excludes (has to) other possibilities (politically speaking this would be "real" dominance). Fairclough says "hegemony is about constructing alliances, and integrating rather than simply dominating subordinate classes ... to win their consent."

Theoretical knowledge in design should be sourced from contextually appropriate interdisciplinary areas of knowledge - this provides a range of opinion that in the beginning stages at least preludes the "wrong" dominance of hegemony: yet a type of hegemony is exactly what the design process is working towards. However, to make sense of, to make use of diverse (and often conceptually dichotomous) elements one needs that "structure" (however you word it, however you visualise it) that will allow the construction of "alliances" / connections or the integration of what is, in effect, the dynamics of compromise. Because the sources for your theoretical knowledge are dynamic in the compromise of integrative alliances / connections (this is very like my favourite topic - the explosive metaphor) the 'wrong" sort of hegemony will be avoided, as will the restrictive nature of logical and rational ways of knowing (alone). I am all for being rational and logical, but to build theoretical knowledge on just this is to unoriginally go nowhere in particular.

Even our B.Tech students (honnours level, 4th year) are required to produce "original" research results, and a great part of getting to this stage of "originality" lies in the method of inquiry (not a single-minded, copying, everyone else does it this way method, the rule book says method X is best for my type of research), and they have to make their new understanding explicit and obviously transferable and extendable as a matter off course. It is not that difficult to be "original" or "novel" or "innovative" (says he from the safety of his office). The only trick is to teach yourself, as well as you can, how others have done it, how it works now, what in the past made it work as it does, and when you can do it as well as most you deserve a masters. If you can use this platform to make "new" connections (alliances) in order to create something "original" from "everything that has gone before", then you deserve a doctorate. A brilliant one, a good one, or simply aa competent one, but doctorate nonetheless, since you have done something that few people can quite get themselves to do - not a product or some other tangible thing, but the real design capability: to "see in the dark."

Regards
Johann

Johann van der Merwe
Faculty of Art and Design, Port Elizabeth Technikon
P/Bag X6011 Port Elizabeth 6000
Phone +27 41 504 3682 Fax +27 41 504 3529


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